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Morning Brief: DACA Turns 10 Without A Clear Path Forward For Recipients

A DACA recipient in a black shirt, black beret and khaki pants speaks at a podium filled with microphones. Four other speakers appear nearby.
Jesus Villegas Martinez, a DACA recipient and student at CSUN, describes how the Angel Fund will help students like him.
(Julia Barajas
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Wednesday, June 15.

Can you smell it? That sweet smell of graduation season? As a former teacher (and a proud auntie), this is one of my favorite times of the year. I often think about the kids I once taught. I wonder where they’re headed in life and what careers they may pursue. This morning, I’m especially thinking about those former students of mine who came to this country without legal status, brought here by their parents who wanted a better life.

They’re on my mind because today marks 10 years since President Barack Obama announced DACA - the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has protected hundreds of thousands of people who came into the United States as children, without documentation. Over the years, DACA has not only prevented deportation, it’s also allowed people to openly apply to college, get financial aid and work permits. More than 800,000 people have benefitted from the program - about 80,000 of those DACA recipients live in Southern California. Two of these folks are my colleagues (and also two of my faves!), podcast host Brian De Los Santos and social media producer Chris Farias.

When President Obama first announced DACA, Brian was a 21-year-old Cal State Northridge graduate, writing stories about immigration and policy for a fellowship program in D.C.. He says he called his mom almost on the verge of tears. “I just felt a huge relief,” Brian says. “It felt like when you’re exercising and you need to catch your breath, but you just keep going and going…you’re running until you’re finally able to catch your breath because you hit a milestone. That’s how I felt. Like I was able to catch my breath. It was very surreal.”

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But then, in 2017, President Trump swiped the program, leaving thousands, including Brian, in jeopardy of deportation. Brian, as he wrote in the L.A. Times back then, had no idea what was next for him. It was scary. “I got so depressed,” Brian says. “I didn’t know how to react. I was brainfrozen for a week.”

Brian had been in this country since he was two years old. What was Plan B? What was Plan C? If he can’t stay in the U.S., could he go to Mexico to be a journalist? “There was so much swirling in my head,” Brian says. “And I'm so blessed and privileged to have a network of support from people in journalism and outside of journalism, who reached out to me and said, ‘Whatever you need, I'm here. You know, let's try to figure this out.’”

Today, we’re STILL figuring it out. DACA is in limbo. It was reinstated after President Trump tried to shut it down, but then, last summer, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen declared it illegal.

No new DACA applicants are currently being accepted, but the Biden administration has appealed Hanen’s decision. This is what President Biden said in a video released on Twitter this morning. The case will be heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 6. After that it could end up in the Supreme Court.

“We don’t have a solution,” Brian says. “Yes, there are bills. There are talks. Advocates keep pushing the immigration reform agenda. If I were a citizen, I would have to vote, but I don’t even have the right to vote. I’m involved with creating strategy and content creation, but I don’t have a voice.”

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LAist’s Social Media Producer Chris Farias moved from Uruapan, Mexico with his mom and his younger brother when he was five years old. They crossed the Sonoran Desert to get here. They left the rest of their family to go with his dad who had moved to the U.S. two years prior. They moved because home was a dangerous place with the drug cartels.

He was 16 years old when he heard about DACA. Because of it, he was able to get his driver’s license, go to college and get his work permit.

But now, like Brian, the future is murky for Chris. “Every day I wake up thinking all of this could be taken away,” he says. “I could lose my job if the DACA program ends. I could lose my driver’s license. My work ending means my college degree wouldn’t even work for anything. For the 50th, 100th time, anything DACA related gets pushed back. It’s living in limbo every single day.”

With all this said though, he still feels some semblance of hope with a new (but slow) administration. “The American spirit is coming back a bit,” he says. “But it’s still got a long way to go.”

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As always, I hope you stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below the fold.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go...Go to an L.A. Park After Dark

Parks After Dark
(Courtesy of L.A. County Parks )

From June 16 to August 6, you can hang out in 34 different parks across the county after the sun goes down. From Loma Alta Park in Altadena to Mona Park in Compton to Basset Park in La Puente, there will be a ton of fun, free, and safe recreational experiences for kids, families, and communities, like self-care classes, dancing, movies, and more. The program has been going for 13 years. So come on out and join the fun on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, starting this week. It’s free, too. You can get more info here.

There’s more events happening this week. My colleague Christine Ziemba has all the info you need here.

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