Fighting through tears, 25-year-old DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — recipient Tania Breton is trying to wrap her head around an uncertain future.
“I have pledged my allegiance to the flag for like 21 years,” said Breton, who’s a client of Wind of the Spirit Morristown, an immigrant resources center.
Breton is one of 800,000 United States residents who face possible deportation if DACA ends. Recipients are anxiously awaiting President Donald Trump’s decision on the future of the Obama-era program that gives work permits to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children.
“I was working under the table as a waitress. Thanks to DACA, I managed to become a nursing assistant at a hospital. I’ve been working for three years for that hospital system. I’m now a nurse and I’ve sacrificed and worked really hard to get where I am. This is pretty much like whiplash,” said Breton.
Under the DACA program, the group of young immigrants, often called DREAMers, can apply to defer deportation for two years. After that, they can apply for renewal.
“The general public does not know what DACA is. They think it’s a pathway to citizenship. It’s a work permit. It’s pretty much the minimum of what we can get. People can work and they don’t receive aid. This is just a work permit. The fact that people want it to be removed, I just don’t understand it,” said Breton.
In New Jersey, there are 22,000 DACA recipients. For them, they’re at risk of losing their work authorization permits, at risk of being thrown into the deportation pipeline and from the news they’ve heard last night. We’re trying to mobilize as quickly as we can,” said Nedia Morsy, organizer for the immigrant advocacy group, Make the Road New Jersey.
President Trump campaigned on dismantling the program. Earlier this summer, 10 attorney generals wrote to him asking to end DACA and requesting a Sept. 5 deadline. Though Trump has since softened his stance, the White House is reportedly considering delaying enforcement of any decision for six months, punting it back to Congress and providing a window to legislate a fix and put immigration advocates on high alert.
“We’ve been inundated with phone calls from them. The Trump administration will perpetuate this anti-immigration policy and I’m just devastated at what they’re hearing. So, there’s a lot of fear among our clients across the state and the nation,” said Nicole Miller, the director of legal services for American Friends Service Committee.
“They’re trying to be very strong for me,” replied Breton when NJTV News asked her about her family after which she broke down into tears. For her sister, Stephanie, who has citizenship and turned 14 on Labor Day, the topic is almost unbearable.
“It just hurts to see her like this because usually she’s just so strong and having to see her go through all this it hurts,” said Stephanie.
“I just want people to know we’re trying the best we can to be in this country. I believe I’ve paid my dues as much as other people have. It might have been a mistake to bring me here so early, but I can’t change what my parents did. I just need to look ahead and not look back. I believe I did that. I’m a nurse now, I didn’t take care from no one. I studied. I passed my boards. I did the best I could with all of the cards that were laid in front of me. We want to tell our Congress and government that we will fight tooth and nail for this country,” said Tania.
But on Labor Day, instead of blowing out candles to celebrate a birthday, the sisters are bracing to say goodbye, wondering just how many more they’ll get to spend together.