This is particularly worrisome for DACA recipients as they think through how to financially sustain themselves and often, their families, who depend on the legal income brought in by DACA recipients.
“My mother is going through some health issues and with DACA, I’ve been able to support her and my family to pay for her medication and her surgeries, so knowing that DACA is ending … I have a timer on how much I will be able to help my mom,” said Nestor Ruiz, digital organizer at United We Dream, the largest immigration-youth organization in the country, and a DACA recipient.
California has the largest DACA population with nearly 223,000 initial recipients, followed by Texas at 124,300, and Illinois at 42,376, according to the Pew Research Center.
Eulalio Mendez is among those residing in California. Mendez, a senior at University of California Santa Cruz, wants to study law after graduation, but when the decision came down on DACA this week, he reconsidered those plans. “It’s really painful to talk about it without getting emotional. It’s really difficult to see a positive light knowing that I’m pursuing (an) education and that there won’t be employment opportunities, so it made me question whether education was a good investment or if I really belong here. But I know I do,” he said.
Before the DACA program, Mendez worked at a fast-food restaurant to pay for community college. He wonders if he’ll have to return to that when his DACA expires in November 2018. “After DACA was announced … that same day all I could think was that I was probably going to go back to a fast-food restaurant or possibly working the fields,” he told me.
Covering a range of expenses is a theme in the daily life of any American, and that’s especially true for DACA recipients, many of whom are planning how they’ll earn pay for gas, rent, tuition, mortgage, among other expenses.
Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez, an immigration lawyer in Dallas, Texas, has been receiving questions from recipients and employers alike regarding the expiration of work permits. By and large, the program’s beneficiaries were often granted renewals, unless they no longer met the qualifications, therefore employers didn’t have to worry about those permits expiring. That’s no longer the case.
“Now that you know, if you know because some people might not even know that their employees are DACA … If you know, what is the employer's responsibility to make sure their systems are in check and that they’re no longer employing somebody that’s not authorized to work,” Saenz-Rodriguez said.
Diana Montelongo, a DACA recipient, talked to her employer ahead of the September 5 decision, which had been influenced by Republican state attorneys general opposed to DACA who threatened to take the administration to court if it didn’t phase out the program. Montelongo, a middle school teacher in Sacramento, California, feared that Trump would rescind the program from the day he took office, prompting her to talk to her employer twice about her status.