In real talk realtalk

Real Talk: I'm a DACA Recipient

Hi friends! This is my Real Talk series where I interview people about their experiences. Today I'm talking with Jessica, a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. She's sharing her story of immigrating to the US and telling us all about the program that President Trump rescinded on September 5 of this year. 

Tell us about yourself 

My name is Jessica and I am 24 years old. I was seven when I immigrated to Texas–where I currently live–from Durango, Mexico, my birthplace. I attended UT at Arlington and graduated Spring of 2016. There, I received a bachelor's degree in communications specializing in public relations.

How did you immigrate to the US and when did you become a DACA recipient? 

My mother and I immigrated to the US. My father already lived here for a year and he thought it was best to have the family together. I received DACA five years ago when it was put into action by then president Barack Obama.

Both my parents rallied behind me and helped me with financial help to consult with an attorney and paid for the filing fee as well. They wanted me to apply immediately so that I would stop accruing unlawful presence and do right by the law.

Who can apply for DACA and what are the requirements?

To apply for DACA, you must have been under the age of 31 as of the day DACA was announced. You must have arrived to the US before your 16th birthday, have consistently stayed in the US from the date of the DACA announcement.

You must have completed High School or received a GED. Most importantly, you must not have committed a felony, a significant misdemeanor or more than three misdemeanors.

The cost to apply for DACA is approximately $500 plus anywhere between $800- $2,000 for those who seek legal help to apply.

What benefits does the program provide? What benefits does it not include? 

DACA gives you two things. Firstly, a deferral from deportation. This means, unless otherwise determined, you are generally protected from deportation. It also gives you a social security permit. This permit, however, is only valid for work authorization.

DACA recipients are not eligible for welfare, food stamps, Obamacare, or any state and federal grants/scholarships or financial aid that was only available to residents and citizens before DACA. 

How is DACA beneficial to immigrants?

Historically speaking, there occurred an influx of illegal immigration after the year 1993 and before 2001. My family falls under this time frame.

NAFTA was signed in 1993 and in the following years had a greatly negative impact to Mexican citizens.

For example, my father, a well educated accountant for a railroad station in Mexico was laid off. Mostly all railroad workers were laid off from the the US sweeping in and privatizing the systems.

Like us, many families found themselves in the similar situation and in order to continue providing for their families, they traveled with their young children to the US and worked hard laborious jobs.

We all grew up together and we found ourselves in limbo when we approached college age. Many of us couldn't work or apply to financial aid to complete college and those of us who did complete college couldn't work with their degree post-graduations because they lacked a social security number.

DACA temporarily took us out of that limbo and allowed us to pursue and education and use that education for good by becoming contributing and most times even outstanding members of society. 

What will happen to the almost 800,000 people who receive DACA now that it's be canceled? 

Immediately, DACA recipients will be ineligible to work. Personally, I worked for a multi-billion auto company as a marketing coordinator after graduation. I think about how shattering this would be to me if I were still there. Currently, I am freelancing and can legally continue to do so by filing my taxes and my work permit does not expire until 2019.

However, those in traditional jobs will be out of work. This will affect all aspects of their life. Car payments, rent payments, even mortgage payments for some. It would also put us all at risk of deportation. Any step out of line and the government knows exactly where to find us, as they have all of our information.

I don't think mass deportations will occur although I know the numbers will increase, they already have been. My biggest worry is that without being able to be productive members of society in the place they call their home, these young individuals will begin to self deport, losing a home and all hopes of regaining a life they once had.

Why is DACA an important program for our immigrants and for out country? 

DACA is important, although it was never a solution, because it recognized that our current immigration system is broken and it offered help, however unreliable it was. This was a step towards the right direction. It showed the country is still empathetic towards those seeking a better future and the American dream, those American values from decades ago which made the country what it is today.

What are some of the repercussions of ending the DACA program? 

First, I don't believe that immigrants should be measured in value by financial gains, but for those who need that justification to respect immigrants, there are many reputable business sources like this article from Fortune, which speaks of the financial loss from ending DACA.

Second, DACA had an age requirement. You had to be at least 15 years of age to submit your application. This means that as of Trump's announcement via Jeff Sessions, thousands of teenagers who were waiting to turn 15 and submit their application the next day are now left unprotected and run the risk of deportation. Their counterparts who had turned 15 years of age sooner and were able to apply and become approved and protected for two years.

It is completely unfair and measured only by chance, which is not an acceptable measurement tool federal government should be using.

Lastly, the Trump administration is sending a message that DACA recipients are no longer worthy of security and quality of life in the US. It only proves to further the xenophobia, white supremacy and echo chambers that the less empathetic citizens of this country are building.

What do you want people to know about DACA recipients or immigrants in general?

I want people to understand that, without a shadow of a doubt, rescinding DACA and leaving hundreds of thousands unprotected is purely political theater.

Trump says he wanted Congress to act and therefore made this move, but logically speaking there was no reason to rescind a program that was, in the meanwhile, working just fine and generating a great deal of revenue for the country.

Rescinding without a replacement was a completely useless move that will just put those at risk who would have otherwise been protected and will ultimately cost the country financially and ethically.

How can people help those affected by the end of DACA?

Continue to pressure your local, state and federal government to defend DACA and to defend immigrant rights in legislation and elections going forward. Simple tools like Resistbot help you send a message to your elected officials regarding DACA.

If you're interested in being interviewed for this series, email me at

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  1. Amazing interview. I have always wanted to know more about DACA and people who are DACA recipients. Thank you for fulfilling my curiousity :)