This article has been submitted anonymously.
I am a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and a STEM student attending NC State. I was brought to the United States when I was five years old. And like most five year olds, I have very few memories from that age of my life.
Regarding the trip here, I don’t remember it. I don’t remember the smugglers, but I do remember having to jump in a ditch and my mom feeding me to keep me quiet. I don’t remember getting settled into North Carolina, but I know that my mom already had family here.
My only school experiences have been in the United States. I started in pre-k, received ESL services in elementary school and graduated high school with 56 college credits.
I continued my education to complete two associate’s degrees thanks to a policy in the NC Community College System that allows DACA students to be sponsored by their employer, thus qualifying for in-state tuition rates.
Unlike in 21 other states, in NC, all higher education is paid at out-of-state tuition rates by DACA students no matter how long they’ve been here or how much they and their families have paid in state and federal taxes. The exception is when a DACA student’s employer is willing to sponsor them at an NC community college.
I was fortunate enough to have an employer willing to sponsor me. Not all DACA students are so lucky.
Now, I attend NC State as a transfer student, intending to get a bachelor’s in a STEM major. DACA recipients are not eligible to complete the FAFSA so not only are we disqualified from financial aid, but also from any need-based university scholarships in which the FAFSA is used as the tool to demonstrate need.
Although I have received some private scholarships, I take only one class at a time due to the costs of out-of-state tuition as well as the health insurance requirement. We cannot get health insurance except if offered through an employer or purchasing an expensive private policy (i.e. we cannot participate in the Affordable Care Act market). Unfortunately, the two jobs I work do not offer me health insurance. One class a semester is all that I can afford.
The DACA program allows me to drive legally and to work legally, paying the required taxes as well as the required FICA (Social Security and Medicare). However, I am barred from collecting those benefits when I am of age.
It is interesting to me that the government is willing to forego the receipts of all the DACA workers who pay into a system from which they cannot later draw a benefit.
DACA changed my life by giving me hope and tools to get where I wanted to go.
When my parents brought me to the US, they were giving me the chance to have a better life than what we would had in my country. They saw that there was more opportunity in the US and therefore decided that it was worth risking everything and leaving everything behind to come here. We now have a better life than what we would have had.
But now that I have been raised here, being surrounded by different cultures, different people, my dream became much larger than what my parents saw coming to the US and not really knowing anything about how things are done here.
Obtaining a degree, getting a well-paying job, owning a house, and just being able to provide for my family that I hope to have one day has now become my dream. I saw DACA as tremendous help when it came time to take steps in getting to what is now my dream.
DACA gave me the chance to become a great example for my nieces and nephews. Me being at NC State, has made them already start thinking about college even though they are so young.
Higher education was not in my mind until much later in my life and I’m very glad that they consider me a role model. I now have the experience to help them and advise them when they do get to the point of applying for college.
And now, again, it is changing my life through its repeal. I will no longer be able to drive or work legally. I do not foresee how continuing my education, becoming a professional and fulfilling my potential and my family’s dreams is going to be possible.