North Texas Daily

Eagle Dreamers Program reflects on growing uncertainty

Eagle Dreamers Program reflects on growing uncertainty

Eagle Dreamers Program reflects on growing uncertainty
November 12
11:00 2021

By Azul Sordo

The university’s Eagle Dreamers Program discussed the “future of DACA,” following Congressional Democrats’ third attempt to include immigration reform in President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” reconciliation bill.

The Eagle Dreamers Program aims to support immigrant students of all backgrounds by providing them with resources, information and a sense of community.

“Let’s hope something comes out of this [bill] because I’m kind of scared of just waiting, waiting and waiting,” Eagle Dreamers President Oscar Silva said to members at the organization’s last meeting.

The reconciliation bill would provide temporary legal status and work authorization for millions of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before 2011, a notch down from more ambitious plans which included a pathway to citizenship.

“Having that ability to work and have a social [security number], it’s really critical to undocumented immigrants,” Silva said.

The proposal comes after Houston Federal Judge Andrew Hanen ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal on July 16, forcing the Department of Homeland Security to stop accepting incoming applications.

This move left many prospective Dreamers in limbo.

“I’m just literally playing the waiting game,” Silva said. “None of it is assured.”

The push-and-pull politics are nothing new to immigration policy, said Jara Carrington, anthropology lecturer and director of undergraduate programs. The 1942 Bracero program, for example, incentivized Mexican immigration to the U.S. with promises of short-term labor and housing.

Its volatile run came to an end in 1964, leaving millions of laborers without work, Carrington said.

“That kind of connection between historical policy and the ways in which things are now often is completely lost in public discourse around immigration,” Carrington said. “We choose to demonize the problem, and I think that is a real shortcoming of the United States.”

The uncertainty surrounding DACA has been a huge part of academic life, Eagle Dreamers member Sam Alvizo said. When he was a high school senior, he noticed his friends planning for college, obtaining driver’s licenses and finding work, while he was not.

“That’s when it started hitting me,” Alvizo said. “I really didn’t have that opportunity, so I was kind of locked in a stalemate of ‘What can I do with my life?’”

He became eligible for DACA upon turning 16, but the Trump administration phased out the program in 2017. Alvizo recalls submitting his application on Dec. 13, 2020, just as DACA was reinstated.

But he waited six months with no response.

When he couldn’t get in contact with a USCIS representative, he contacted his district representative Collin Allred, who helped him make an official inquiry.

The following week, the program was shut down again, after Alvizo had finished driving school.

“It was honestly infuriating,” Alvizo said. “We can’t just wait for 10 more years [or] two more decades until immigration reform happens. You’re basically asking for one of the biggest issues this country has faced if you don’t fix it now.”

Similar to Alvizo, after waiting three years for the program to be reinstated, Silva said his application is now “endlessly frozen” in the system.

“Sometimes, I just feel like I’m just living in the shadows like there’s nothing I can do,” Silva said. “It’s just frustrating.”

While being a few credits away from earning an economics degree, Silva plans to pursue a second minor in accounting to give Congress more time to act.

“I can’t risk graduating and not being able to use my degree,” Silva said. “I’m just kind of stuck planning six months ahead every time.”

As DACA becomes tangled in the larger web of immigration reform, Silva said activists have criticized the limits of Biden’s Build Back Better bill, saying it does not provide a pathway to citizenship.

“I think it’s time for them to enforce some type of radical change and actually do something that would change things around,” Silva said. “I’m tired of politicians playing the safe game of trying to keep everything steady and trying to uphold this mediocrity.”

Structural barriers such as high renewal fees and lack of access to federal aid can have an isolating effect for Dreamer students on campus, Carrington said.

“That ability to access college and pay for it is still challenging even if you’re able to more easily move through the system,” Carrington said. “It can really affect your ability to feel you’re part of UNT’s community.”

In the face of uncertainty, Silva is determined to provide a safe space for facilitating conversation around immigration.

“There has to be something,” Silva said. “I’m not ready to give up, and I hope they’re not ready to give up either.”

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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