America Hernandez, who is now 34, can divide her working life into two periods: before DACA protections kicked in, and after. Before the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created in 2012, Hernandez, whose parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico when she was three months old, was not eligible to work legally in the United States. Until her late 20s, she cobbled together a living working at various restaurants—not what she’d wanted to do when she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Fresno State in 2003. She’d had two job offers in marketing “in the six figures” upon graduating, she told me, but she’d had to turn them down because she didn’t have the proper papers.
But DACA, which was created by President Obama without congressional input, allowed Hernandez to work in the type of job that college had prepared her for. She returned home to Fresno, from Chicago, where she’d been working in a restaurant, and got what she calls her “dream job,” providing free legal representation for unaccompanied children with an organization called Kids In Need of Defense, or KIND. “Once DACA happened, I could come back here and do what I love to do,” she told me. Hernandez, whose work permit expires in October of 2018, told me that now that the Trump administration has rescinded DACA, she’ll sell the house she bought in 2015, put that money towards living expenses, and then go back to working restaurant jobs, if Congress doesn’t extend DACA or pass a more permanent fix.