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'This Is Not Something That Can Be Ignored': One Texas DACA Recipient Shares His Story

Martin do Nascimento
KUT News
A rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 in Austin.

Since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has given legal protections to more than 120,000 Texans.  

President Trump’s decision to wind down DACA has generated strong emotions among these so-called "DREAMers." 

In North Texas, several didn’t want to talk Tuesday, out of fear. Juan Carlos Cerda, however, did. 

Cerda, 25, came to the U.S. from Mexico with his parents when he was 7 and graduated from Yale University in 2015. He taught for two years through Teach for America. Today, he’s an immigration campaign organizer for the Texas Organizing Project.

He's one of 800,000 across the country who are part of the DACA program. They were brought to the U.S. – illegally – as children.

“I am very overwhelmed right now, overwhelmed with fear for my family’s future,” he said. 

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Juan Carlos Cerda, 25.

Cerda expected a different decision from President Trump, given remarks the president had made sympathetic to children in this country who are here through no fault of their own.

“I’m extremely disappointed with President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program because he had said that he had a big heart and that he would take care of everyone,” Cerda says.

DACA will end in six months to give Congress time to find a legislative solution for the immigrants. Cerda wants Congress to come up with some immigration reform, some path to permanent residency for DACA recipients. Leaders of both parties, including Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, say they want something like that, so Cerda is hopeful.

“Piecemeal immigration reform makes the most sense,” Cerda says. “Focusing first on a DREAM Act: A law that will provide a pathway to permanent residency for DACA recipients.”

Cerda says the deadline’s an incentive for Congress to act sooner than later. Others serious concerns like growing tensions with North Korea are important, too. But, he believes it would be unwise to kick DACA down the road.

“This is not something that can be ignored,” Cerda says. “DACA is all over the media. It’s today’s big story. Six months from now, it’ll be a big story again.”

Cerda says that will create big problems for Congress if nothing’s done by then. He says Dreamers are not going to stay silent – there’s too much at stake.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.