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DACA recipients eager for rights in 2021

2020 brought courtroom and election victories, but more expected
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Posted at 10:56 AM, Jan 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-01 11:09:54-05

BALTIMORE, Md. — Monica Camacho Perez's story is similar to many immigrants who came to the United States illegally when they were children.

"I was brought here at the age of 7 with my mother," Perez said outside a Baltimore school where she helps with translation. "My dad thought he could give us a better life here and he has accomplished that."

Over the years, Perez has been through the ups and downs of having DACA protection in the U.S. DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. It’s estimated 700,000 men and women like Monica have it, which allows them to work legally and not be deported.

President Obama created the program in 2012.

"I remember being so excited, but at the same time being scared, anxious. Being like, how safe is this?" Perez said.

Her fears centered around having to give away personal information, like phone numbers and addresses.

The way it was crafted, it wasn’t permanent and future presidents could use the information how they like.

Perez's fears increased with the election of President Donald Trump and his commitment to end the program over the last four years.

"I remember my mom saying, 'I guess we are going to have to go back to Mexico,'" Perez said, reflecting on the last four years.

2020 victories for DACA

2020 actually brought many victories for the immigrant community.

First, the Supreme Court ruled DACA couldn't end the way President Trump wanted it to.

Second, President-elect Joe Biden won the election and has promised to expand the program and make the protections permanent.

"Oh my god, we can breathe," Perez said reflecting on the year.

What is next?

Even though DACA is not going away any time soon, the program is not a fix-all.

"There is a lot of confusion right now," said George Escobar, a chief programmer with CASA, an immigrant-rights group.

Escobar says Dreamers may still have DACA, but they still don’t have a pathway to full citizenship.

They can't apply for Medicaid or freely travel abroad.

And, DACA still doesn’t apply for people who came to the U.S. after 2007.

"This program is very specific. Someone who entered the country in 2009 would not be eligible," Escobar said.

As the Biden presidency begins, expectations are high for more protections.

"He has to keep his promises we gave him this he has to return it," Perez said. "I’m thankful for DACA but we want a pathway to citizenship."