On Tuesday, President Donald Trump is expected to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals passed under President Barack Obama. DACA allows young undocumented immigrants, brought to the U.S. as children to remain here.
Daniela Carrillo and Ana Rodriguez are two Colorado recipients of DACA, but while Carrillo has a green card on the way, Rodriguez’s future is unknown.
After living undocumented in Denver since she was 3 years old, Carrillo applied for DACA status through her attorney, Arturo Jimenez, in 2010. Jimenez then encouraged her to apply for a travel visa so she could go back to Mexico, and legally enter the country.
“In a way, it’s an unintended loophole for folks,” said Jimenez.
Once someone with DACA has a legal entry, they can apply for permanent residency if a parent or a spouse is a U.S. citizen. But so many young people worry if they leave, they won’t be able to re-enter the country.
“I was scared to death,” said Carrillo about being in Mexico 2 years ago. “I would Google stories, horror stories - are they gonna let me back in, are they gonna let me back in? - I prayed in my hotel that they would let me back in. It was terrifying, but I felt like if I didn’t go I would think what if? And I just had to take that risk.”
Daniela’s green card will arrive any day now.
“Yes, I feel lucky, I think I would be crying my eyes out if not.” she said.
The 21-year-old will have a path toward citizenship whether or not DACA ends.
But Ana Rodriguez won’t.
“I kick myself every day for not doing that when I had the chance,” said Rodriguez, talking about the travel visa. “And now it’s too dangerous to do it. Because if I leave the country and DACA is eliminated before I come back then I’m stuck again in another country that I don’t know or don’t plan to live in.”
The 27-year-old crossed the river into Texas as a 4-year-old with her parents. Like Daniela, DACA allowed Ana to get a license and the ability to travel.
“When I got DACA, I got the opportunity to fly for the first time without fear,” she said.
If DACA goes away, Ana’s future is unknown. She has a bachelor’s degree and a good job, but without a legal right to live in the country, those things might not matter.
“I’m going to face the possibility of deportation like my parents do every day,” she said.
Carrillo said her fears aren’t over until she has the green card in her hand. Rodriguez has a work permit for another year and a half, and a license for 2 years, but after that, she will likely be undocumented.