Norma Salazar keeps it together during the day — she has to, she said, for her kids — but at night it’s a different story. That’s when the 27-year old Dallas woman allows herself to cry. “What if,” she said, “What are we going to do if this happens?”
Salazar is one of more than 690,000 recipients of the Deferrered Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program President Obama initiated in 2012. It allows some foreign born children brought to the U.S. illegally to legally stay and work. Each enrollment allows a two year stay, which can be renewed. President Donald Trump ended the DACA program last September.
As lawmakers debate what to do next, DACA recipients find their fate hanging in the balance.
“They’re scared,” Dallas immigration attorney Martin Valko said. “It’s been a roller coaster ride for them from the beginning. You get it. It’s been taken away from you. … What’s going to happen?”
Texas is second only to California in its number of DACA recipients. Valko said if you don’t buy a humanitarian argument for allowing DACA recipients to stay, he said consider the financial contributions they’re making by working and living in the United States.
“The bottom line is, they are a part of the economy,” Valko said. “Trying to pull them out of the system will, I think, cause significant damage.
But others claim DACA recipients cost the country as well. Mark Krikorian, with the Center for Immigration Studies, said, “The big costs are health care, food stamps, education.”
He added that amnesty programs like DACA create an incentive for new illegal immigration and can create “chain migration,” meaning, once an immigrant is in the United States legally, they can apply for family members to join them. Krikorkian said he’s not necessarily opposed to creating a solution for DACA recipients, but added, “We have to have other things packaged with it.”
Salazar said her story is typical of many DACA recipients. Her mother brought her here from Mexico when she was a child, just 10-years old. Salazar went to school, learned the language, and eventually went to college and got an office job. At the top of her mind, she said, always, is her mother.
“My mom went through a lot to make this happen for me, so I was determined for it not to be in vain.”
Now Salazar is a married mother of three. She’s terrified she may have to leave her children once her DACA term expires. She said leaving to live in a country she doesn’t know would be catastrophic for her family, not just financially, but emotionally as well. Her youngest child, a son, has autism.
In talking about the possiblity of leaving, she can barely get the words out, “He needs me,” she whispered. “He needs me.”