(TIML NEWS) When Jose Abastida was 11 years old, he and his family came to the United States in search of a better life. They migrated from Honduras to Florida with a visa, escaping the danger that viciously inundated their lives.
“I clearly remember a bank robbery next to our community,” Abastida says over the phone from Miami. “The robbers passed right in front of our house while shooting at the cops that were following them.”
Once they reached North American soil, family members aided them until they were able to stand on their own. Eventually they would settle in the Orlando-Kissimmee area of Florida.
Abastida went to Poinciana High School and later studied at a local community college. His father, an engineer back in their home country, always instilled the value of an education to his children, no matter the circumstances.
“I remember at a young age moving from place to place, and always before anything, we had to finish our homework or study for the day,” Abastida recalls. “We always had to keep up with our studies.”
At first glance, the 25-year-old’s story seems like your typical immigrant coming-of-age, but he’s undocumented. Abastida is trying to productively coexist under a conservative government whose sole mission is seemingly to turn his life — and others like him — into a Rubik’s Cube.
He joins the approximate 800,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an initiative enforced by the Obama administration in 2012, which protected undocumented immigrants who came here as children from deportation. It also granted them the right to legally hold a job.
In order to qualify for DACA, applicants must have a clean record and have graduated from high school, a GED program or the Coast Guard. Additionally, they would have to be younger than 31 years old as of June 15, 2012 and have been present in the U.S. on the same date and since June 2007.
Artwork by @nerdybrownkid “Growing up we were always talking about papers. Some of us had papers and some didn’t. Life was harder when you didn’t have papers. You had to be careful when you didn’t have papers. Some of us had secret names and birthdates. In the same breath, my mom would talk about how so-and-so’s husband was deported and the frijoles on the stove. I thought it was part of being Mexican. One summer my best friend started crying in of front me because she kept having nightmares about her dad being deported. “It’s not going to happen,” I said, but my words felt small and inconsequential.“
Under the new executive order, DACA participants whose permits expire before March 5, 2018 are eligible to apply for a two-year renewal by Oct. 5, but the administration will no longer accept any new applicants. There are approximately 154,000 Dreamers with DACA expiration dates that run through the cutoff date in early March, according to Homeland Security spokesperson David Lapan.
Amid the tight deadline, law officials urge DACA recipients to seek legal assistance during these turbulent times. There could be some hope or other alternatives some might not be privy to.
“It is important for individuals with DACA to review their cases with qualified immigration attorneys. Things may have changed since they first applied and maybe they now qualify for a permanent status,” immigration attorney Ann Marie Dooley informs us. “I have helped many individuals with DACA apply for their green cards through their spouses or through parents or stepparents who are citizens or lawful permanent residents. I have had others that were able to apply for U visas because they were victims of crimes in the United States.”
The same day of the announcement, POTUS later tweeted something many found less than encouraging: “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit the issue!”
Trump’s decision to put the lives of some 800,000 hardworking individuals at risk is simply cruel. Imagine having to overcome such numerous odds only to have survived in a country — the only one you know — that ultimately doesn’t want you?
Not only is the order inhumane, it can also affect the nation’s economy in the long run. According to a research study conducted by AmericanProgress.org, 72 percent of the 25 of top Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, General Motors, Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot and Wells Fargo, employ DACA recipients. These companies make up to $2.8 trillion annually.
Additionally, reports have surfaced estimating that if DACA were repealed, within a span of 10 years it would cost the federal government $60 billion in lost revenue. The economy would collectively lose $215 billion in GDP, according to a study conducted by the Cato Institute.
Because of their excellent academic track record and unwavering determination toward getting good jobs, DACA participants are an indispensable component of America’s economic system.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, who employs about 250 DACA participants, said he would try to have as many immigrants as possible instead of trying to get rid of them.
“If I were a country leader right now, my goal would be to monopolize the world’s talent,” Cook said to Recode. “I’d want every smart person coming to my country, because smart people create jobs. And jobs [are] the ultimate things that create a great environment in a country. A land of opportunity. A land where everybody can do well if you work hard.”
POTUS, however, keeps sending mixed signals about DACA’s life expectancy. On Sept. 14 he tweeted: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…..”
It seems like there’s no telling what the future holds yet for DACA and the 800,000 lives that depend on it. But one thing is for sure: This country’s best and brightest aren’t going down without a fight.