DACA: A Decade of Dreamers

DACA, which protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, was enacted on June 15, 2012, by President Barack Obama. As DACA celebrates 10 years of bringing safety to young migrants all across the United States, HRI is proud to share story of our dedicated Crime Victim’s Case Manager, Naomi Rios, a DACA recipient:

“For nine years out of the 10 years DACA has existed, I have been a DACA recipient. I am grateful for DACA because I am legally authorized to work, I hold a driver’s license, and I received higher education. But although I am grateful for it, DACA must expand to a pathway to citizenship because thousands of talented, creative, qualified, and educated individuals are hindered by legal status requirements.

“I was only 2 years old when my parents brought me along as they immigrated to the United States to seek a safer life. Being young and unaware of documentation concerns, I attended elementary school and middle school without concerns about my legal status. It wasn’t until I started high school, when I quickly noticed my upperclassman peers were student drivers or had already obtained a driver’s license. In that moment, I questioned my own ability to obtain a driver’s license and realized how truly complicated my documentation status was. I couldn’t do the same things my peers could, whether it was traveling to Mexico or overseas, obtaining a driver’s license, attending college, or getting a job.

“In 2013 at the age of 15, I was granted my initial deferred action and employment authorization document (EAD) with legal representation from Catholic Charities Dallas. I quickly applied for a social security number which was both intimidating and surreal. I was so excited to apply for jobs and obtain a driver’s license, a true blessing to me!

“As a first-generation migrant student and graduate, I navigated higher education on my own and learned that I qualified for in-state tuition. Even for me, who felt so blessed, navigating institutions (especially higher education) was intimidating and sometimes tedious because of the extra hoops I had to jump through . I am now proud to say I am a first-generation graduate with three degrees: an Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Social Work, and Master of Social Work.

“Last year in 2021, I submitted Form I-821D, Form I-765, and Form I-765WS, all on my own, to renew my DACA status. On Form I-765WS , I had to explain my “economic need to work” so I wrote the following:

“I am applying for the renewal of my employment authorization to continue to work as a Case Worker for Dallas County. In addition, I am currently a graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington. I am to graduate with my Master of Social work (MSW) on August 19, 2021. I plan to get my licensure at the master level to become an LMSW. I want to continue to work in human services and make an impact in my community. A renewal of my employment authorization will me to work as a social worker and provide for my family.” 

“I am privileged that my application was approved once again, and I was saddened for those first-time appliers as attacks on DACA debilitated the system. I am grateful for the work opportunities I have had and for my current position as Crime Victims Program Case Manager at HRI. I dreamed of helping the Latine and immigrant community in some capacity, which I now have the honor and privilege to do because I am a DACA recipient. I plan to continue pursuing my goal of becoming a licensed social worker and being a provider for my family.”

At HRI we believe that Immigrant Rights Are Human Rights, Asylum is legal, and we must nurture and protect our DACA Dreamers. Refugees and immigrants are crucial to our economy, and by creating legal pathways to residency and citizenship, we can ensure safety for our migrant community. Dreamers like Naomi are our future, and the future is present at HRI.

#DACA #Dreamers #ImmigrantRightsAreHumanRights #WelcomeWithDignity

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