‘My status really affected me:’ Dreamers weigh in on impact of DACA
Like thousands of Dreamers, Jorge Contreras doesn't remember a life anywhere outside the U.S. He was only two years old when he arrived in this country from San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
"When applying for financial aid and looking for universities, that's when I found out that my status really affected me,” Contreras said. “I was in the shadows my entire life until I got to college and that's where I was able to find my voice."
Like Contreras, Giovanni Escobedo understands the fear that Dreamers feel living in what often feels like a state of uncertainty.
"You're always scared,” Escobedo said. “I tell people I didn't apply for DACA despite that I was very vocal and advocating for solutions because of fear and also lack of funds. It took me about a year and a half to apply for DACA."
The House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act last March to provide Dreamers a path to citizenship. Now, thousands of DACA recipients are waiting on the Senate to act.
On Friday, UTRGV - alongside Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, The Texas Opportunity Coalition, The Texas Business Immigration Coalition and other local leaders - all sat together to discuss how Dreamers fuel the local economy every year.
"I can't think of a more important issue that's impacting young people in our community and across the country and it's important that we come together," Gonzalez said. “Just the City of McAllen, we have a little over 14,000 Dreamers that have over $142 million in purchasing power so not only are they good citizens in our community, but they're hardworking and spend money in our economy."
For now, Dreamers remain hopeful about what the future would be like if the American Dream and Promise Act makes it to President Biden's desk.
"It means it opens up the opportunities,” Escobedo said. “It took me 10 years to graduate from college because even despite having DACA, you have to break many systems down to have access to funding, access to research, to really fully realize your dreams."
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