KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Recent changes to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program have shaken the DREAMer community across the Kansas City metro, leaving more questions than answers about whether to apply or re-apply for DACA status.
The changes from Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf have closed the program to new applicants; work permits are now limited to one year instead of the original two; and advanced parole, which allowed DACA recipients proper status to re-enter the country, now is only allowed for what is deemed an ‘extreme emergency.’
DACA recipient Darianna Seto arrived in the U.S. with her family March 23, 2005, at 5 years old to achieve what many DACA recipients have said is the American dream.
”I’m 20 years old now, so 16 years being an immigrant,” Seto said. “It hasn't been easy at all."
Fellow DACA recipient Janeth Garcia said, who at 7 years old came to the United States with her mother and sister, also said the goal was to "chase the American dream."
For years, both girls said, they hid their DACA status out of fear – until recent changes in its policy.
"I came here because my parents wanted to give me a better future," Seto said, "and so I contribute to this country just as much as someone who is born here. I pay taxes, and for the government to not give me rights – I can't vote – it's like, it just doesn't sit right with me."
Seto and Garcia now are organizing rallies to help DREAMers understand their status and their rights.
"We get caught up in the notion of birth here makes us Americans, and I think that's a lesson that we've got to re-look at, and these kids are the way to learn that lesson,” said attorney Michael Sharma-Crawford, of Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law.
Knowing one's immigration status is critical, according to Sharma-Crawford.
"If you don't know how you got here, you may be losing on things,” Sharma-Crawford said, along with understanding the application process. "I mean, the idea is, 'What's going to save you in removal proceedings?'"
Seto’s DACA status is set to expire in May 2021. Garcia, however, has to reapply this month, and while she is safe, she said the rest of her family is not.
"My whole family is at risk of deportation,” Garcia said. “I want to make sure that I'm set, so that I can set up my family for success because that's what we came for. We're not criminals. They labeled us as criminals, rapists, terrorists. Our people don't come here for that."