DACA recipients at FAU wait in limbo as March 5 deadline looms

Students wait for a decision from Congress on whether or not they will be sent back to a country they may not remember.

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DACA recipients at FAU wait in limbo as March 5 deadline looms

DACA recipient Ana Aleman, a senior neuroscience major. Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

DACA recipient Ana Aleman, a senior neuroscience major. Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

DACA recipient Ana Aleman, a senior neuroscience major. Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

DACA recipient Ana Aleman, a senior neuroscience major. Alexander Rodriguez | News Editor

Cameren Boatner, Contributing Writer

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Editor’s note: Kershane’s name has been changed to protect his privacy as a DACA recipient.

Kershane immigrated to New York from Trinidad when he was just three years old with a rare disease, cavernous hemangioma, resulting in benign tumors. Soon after, he received a visitor visa to undergo treatment.

For the next 20 years, his parents stayed in the U.S. without permission, hoping for a better life. Kershane is among 210 undocumented FAU students who will be affected by the March 5 expiration date of DACA.

“If we stay hidden and the March 5 deadline comes, what are we going to do?” Kershane said.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was a 2012 executive order under former President Obama that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents as minors. If they apply for DACA, they can work legally, receive driver’s licenses, and go to college.

There are roughly 800,000 DACA recipients living in America, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services data.

Now, in the wake of President Trump’s September 2017 announcement to end the program, some recipients are speaking out against possible deportation — hoping to save their status before the deadline.  

Like many DACA recipients, 23-year-old business major Kershane grew up without knowing he was undocumented.

While in high school, Kershane applied for a number of jobs. After realizing he didn’t have the necessary paperwork, he researched why it was missing. He then learned he was undocumented and applied for DACA in 2012.

Currently a junior, Kershane is painfully aware deportation looms over his ability to graduate.

He and his friend, Allie Jacobs, wanted to create a platform to speak out about human rights and immigration policy. In early 2018, they launched an FAU chapter of the Florida Student Power Network, an activist organization looking to improve the lives of oppressed people.

“We’re human, this shouldn’t be happening. Just because we have a different skin color or immigration status, that shouldn’t define who we are as people,” said Jacobs, president of the organization.

Jacobs, who is originally from New York, initially came to Florida to attend Palm Beach State College, later transferring to FAU.

“The first people that I met here were DACA recipients … and they were the first people that made me feel comfortable and happy,” she said.

Allie Jacobs, the president of FAU Student Power, leads the activist organization that defends human rights and educates the public on immigration policy. Joshua Giron | Photo Editor

She soon joined a club at Palm Beach State College called, “Equal,” which fought for DACA recipients and other human rights issues. As an activist, she wants to make sure people know they have a voice.

“We engage the student community and make sure they realize they have the potential to make change,” she added.

Jacobs values cultural diversity in America and said she’s disappointed by the lack of urgency for the undocumented immigrant community.

“We thrive off of cultural diversity and people have to start appreciating that,” she said.

If there is no decision to replace or rescue DACA, its recipients will be vulnerable to deportation following March 5, according to the New York Times.

Until then, Kershane and the other DACA recipients are scrambling to make the best of their situation before it’s too late.

Ana Aleman, a neuroscience major, is trying to finish her degree before her protection status could end.

Originally from Honduras, Aleman came to America when she was eight years old because her parents didn’t feel their family could be kept safe.

“We left everything just to have a better future here,” Aleman said.

The 25-year-old has one semester left to graduate and is trying to get her bachelor’s degree before the expiration of her DACA status.

Aleman aspires to be a doctor, but if she goes back to Honduras, she wouldn’t make much more than a teacher. Because of the country’s corruption, she said, government officials can get doctors hired at private hospitals. If not, doctors are forced to live off a teacher’s salary.

Some DACA recipients aren’t willing to speak out, Aleman said, because they want to maintain a relatively good relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that detains and deports undocumented immigrants.

FAU allowed ICE on its Boca campus Feb. 22 to recruit students for jobs/internships in the Breezeway. Jacobs and Florida Student Power Network held a silent protest against ICE’s mass deportation of immigrant communities. The protestors were eventually escorted from the area by FAU police.

DACA recipients, however, have had trouble participating in these types of demonstrations for fear of recognition.

Kershane said, “The DREAMers [see sidebar], they don’t like to speak out. If you don’t make a move, you’re going to get checkmated on your side.”

Aleman agreed, adding that they can’t keep quiet anymore.

“We are very desperate for help. Right now, we are clinging by a thread and nobody wants to help us anymore,” she said.

Aleman has been working with her FAU advisors to make sure she gets all of her credits completed as quickly as possible before March 5.

President John Kelly issued a September 2017 statement outlining his support for DACA recipients attending FAU. This came days after President Trump announced his administration was ending the program.

Following Kelly’s statement, he was criticized by members of the student body because he didn’t indicate whether FAU would become a sanctuary campus (see sidebar) once DACA’s deadline expires. Kelly has made no plans to make FAU a sanctuary campus as of Feb. 19, according to Joshua Glanzer, assistant vice president for Media Relations and Public Affairs.

“When the situation actually arises, will [Kelly] practice what he preaches or will he be a hypocrite?” Kershane asked.

Aleman said she agrees with Kershane and that it’s only right for FAU to become a sanctuary campus.

Al Zucaro, an immigration lawyer, believes DACA recipients should be continuously granted a legal status.

“I’m not sure what that status should be. Should it be citizenship? Probably,” he said.

However, he views the idea of designated sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants as potentially “harboring criminals” and a breach of law.

“To thumb your nose at the federal authority on the issue of immigration is just plain wrong,” he said.

Although Zucaro opposes this concept, he believes DACA recipients’ lives are being toyed with by the government.

“The president is sitting here, faced with the issue of hundreds of thousands of people that are in limbo at no fault of their own, I grant you, that are being played in the politics of this nation by the Republicans and the Democrats,” he said.

Aleman said she agrees with this sentiment, adding that politicians use the recipients as commodities that they trade at the expense of human lives.

“Stop playing with our heads. Stop playing with our minds. If [Trump] is going to do something, then [he should] do it,” Aleman said.

Kershane and Aleman believe the best way to promote immigration reform is to inspire more DACA recipients to speak up.

As March 5 approaches, Kershane and other DACA recipients are calling for change through activism.

He said, “They have to speak out now. If we can get them to actually come out, start speaking, doing protests and movements, we might actually get something done.”

Terms to Know

 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): A 2012 policy put into place under President Obama that allows undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children to work legally and shield them from deportation.

Undocumented immigrant: An immigrant who does not have citizenship papers or a social security number. The term previously used was “illegal immigrant,” which was later ruled inaccurate as people aren’t “illegal,” only actions are.

DREAMers: The term commonly used to describe DACA recipients, although the word “DREAMers” came from a 2001 policy called the DREAM Act.

ICE: The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the arm of Homeland Security that investigates immigration statuses and detains and/or deports “removable aliens.”

Sanctuary city: A city that generally does not comply to ICE and typically shields undocumented immigrants from ICE officials. This can either be from a lack of communication with ICE or through refusing to help federal immigration authorities detain undocumented immigrants.

*Information from Immigration Equality, Center for Immigration Studies, and U.S Customs and Immigrations websites.*

Cameren Boatner is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].