KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perla Terrones is American in just about every way. She drives a pick-up truck, works at the Ford assembly plant, pays taxes, goes to school and speaks English without an accent.
But on paper, Terrones is a DREAMer, the term given to immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Terrones was born in Mexico and came to the United States illegally as a baby. She identifies as American and has since gained legal status to live and work in the United States through a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA.
“The majority of times I try to hide it,” Terrones admitted.
Now, she’s sharing her story to raise awareness.
DACA is something most of her Hispanic friends and family are familiar with. Her brother and sister are also both DACA recipients. But her white friends are confused when she brings it up. There are roughly 700,000 DACA recipients nationwide.
DACA requires a renewal every two years, recipients must work or go to school and cannot have a criminal background among other requirements. It does not offer a pathway to citizenship, which is something Terrones would love to see added.
“I would love for everyone in DACA to be legal instead of having something that is just temporary,” Terrones said.
Temporary is the key word for immigration attorney Valerie Sprout, who represents roughly 75 DACA recipients including Terrones, at McCrummen Immigration Law Group in North Kansas City, Missouri.
“The design was to give these people who are part of our community stability and predictability,” Sprout said. “It hasn’t happened yet and that is enormously disappointing and it is just really unfair.”
She pointed out the policies surrounding DACA can change on whim with a new president or court ruling.
President Donald Trump tried to repeal the program altogether. The Supreme Court kept it in place.
Still, Sprout says the Biden Administration has not lived up to expectations within the immigrant community.
“I can speak for my own self, I have been disappointed in that the things I thought and hoped would change have not and I feel like there was a lot of hope pinned on this administration not only to get things back to the way they were before Trump, but then to also improve on that,” Sprout said. “However, it seems like there is no political will.”
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act, is what many DACA supporters point to as a permanent solution.
It would create a new law giving DREAMers an option to become citizens.
There are closer to 3 million DREAMers, most of whom did not apply or are not eligible for DACA.
The act has been debated in Washington, D.C. for the past 20 years, but never approved. A new version of the act is in front of lawmakers right now.
Opponents of the DREAM Act and DACA say they reward people who violated immigration laws and are susceptible to fraud.
“It feels like we’re shortchanging these people who deserve a whole lot more,” Sprout said.
Terrones believes the first step toward change is putting a face on this immigration issue.
"The more Americans that will know about it, the greater the chance this problem is going to be fixed,” she said.
Terrones hopes sharing her story changes people’s views about immigration and leads to a permanent solution for DREAMers like her.