DACA recipients are overwhelmingly from mixed-status families: some relatives are undocumented while others are U.S. citizens. DACA opened the door to opportunities, like earning a legal income, providing its beneficiaries with a sense of security.
For Fernandez, an immigration case manager for Make the Road New York, a Latino advocacy organization, DACA allowed her to provide for her family. “I, thankfully to DACA, was able to graduate [from] college, work in the line of work like I always wanted to do. I became a homeowner,” she told me. Now, Fernandez, among other DACA parents, is having to grapple with how she’ll take care of her family and what to do if she’s detained.
Trump has said that DACA recipients, all of whom must have a clean criminal record to qualify, are not enforcement priorities: “We are focused on criminals, security threats, recent border-crossers, visa overstays, and repeat violators. I have advised the Department of Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang,” he said in a statement.
But according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures, there was an increase in “non-criminal” arrests between January 22 and April 29 compared to the same period in 2016, around 10,800 in 2017 to 4,200 in 2016.
Karina Velasco, a DACA recipient and mother of a two-year-old girl, has had discussions with her husband about the possibility of being detained. “We discussed what would happen if a raid happens. We know that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not going to honor DACA,” she told me. “We’re working on a plan: What’s going to happen? I don’t want my daughter to not have her mother; I don’t want my husband to not have his wife.” Velasco is in the process of adjusting her status to become a lawful permanent resident.
Concerns about what may happen to an undocumented parent can take an emotional toll on a child and hinder their integration into society. “Although they have a secure status, the constant fear of losing a parent or coming home and not knowing if your parent is going to be here is something we’ve seen rise,” said Sally Kinoshita, the deputy director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which frequently works with undocumented parents with U.S. citizen children. Kinoshita added that over time, some DACA recipients have adjusted their status to become lawful permanent residents.
Still, the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA effects hundreds of thousands of its beneficiaries, and as many prepare to face the risk of deportation again, they’ll also have to wrestle with what comes next for their families, including their American children.