10 years into the program, DACA recipients are still searching for permanent solutions

By Alisa Reznick
Published: Wednesday, June 15, 2022 - 6:52pm
Updated: Thursday, June 16, 2022 - 11:47am

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DACA application
Jean Clare Sarmiento/KJZZ
A DACA application form.

It’s been 10 years since the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, was enacted. It gave more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children temporary protection from deportation and a work permit.

But it was always temporary. Now, DACA recipients in Arizona and around the country are using the anniversary to renew calls for permanent solutions. 

Mayra Vargas arrived in Arizona when she was just a year and a half old. When DACA was created, she an undocumented college student in Texas.

"It opened a lot of doors for me, I was able to get a bachelor’s degree, I was able to get a good paying job," she said. 

But in the same year Vargas got protection, both her parents were deported. As the oldest of four siblings, she became the head of her household. Vargas is married to a U.S. citizen now and gained permanent residency a few years ago, but she knows that's not a common scenario. Her younger sister still relies on DACA protections.

That's why she says now, she's advocating for people like her sister — especially as DACA's future is uncertain.

"It puts us in a limbo situation because we've built our life here, we have our homes, our kids go to school here,"  she said. "That’s what pushes me to accomplish more, to do more. Because then if they can see that I can do it, they can see that the’ll be able do it too."

A federal judge is Texas is currently weighing the legality of the DACA program. Vargas says that limbo only drive home the temporary nature of the status. In Arizona, recipients don't have access to in-state tuition and Vargas says some still have issues getting things like a driver's license.  She was part of a group of DACA recipients and advocates in Arizona who spent Wednesday asking politicians for a pathway to citizenship.

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