They can get temporary work permits and even go to college. But it may be a while before the children of undocumented workers can make real lives for themselves in America.
Activists outside the U.S. embassy building in Mexico City protest U.S. deportations of Mexican and Central American migrants. (Reuters)
Mari Barrera can finally get a membership at her local gym. She can also obtain a fishing license, or rent a storage locker if she acquires too much stuff. The ebullient young Hispanic woman with a shy smile may not be interested in doing any of these things, but after growing up as an undocumented immigrant, it's worth keeping track of the little things she's able to do now that she has a Social Security card.
Last year, 21-year-old Barrera and her younger sister Adriana qualified for President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants temporary work authorization and a reprieve from deportation to young people who immigrated here illegally as children. Barrera was five when she crossed the Texas border with her parents and later joined relatives living in Enumclaw, a sleepy town 50 miles south of Seattle in the shadow of Mt. Rainier.
"It's just all sorts of things," Barrera says of her new freedoms under DACA. "The big one is work, obviously, but whenever I tell people I'm undocumented they're always just completely confused and taken aback. 'What does that mean? You speak perfect English.' For the most part, people don't know much about it. They don't have any clue what it means to be undocumented or what all it prohibits you from."