Editor’s note: Ruth is not the real name of the DACA recipient featured in this article. The Post Register has given the source anonymity.
Ruth, a freshman, has attended Brigham Young University-Idaho for nearly a month. With most of her undergraduate education to come, a degree isn’t certain — yet grades have nothing to do with it; she was always a strong high school student.
Ruth was granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2015. With recent developments, her imperiled legal status may come at odds with her education.
President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012 to provide temporary legal status to thousands of children who were brought into the country illegally, in most cases without their input.
President Donald Trump has announced his intention to end the program in March, leaving Congress to consider some sort of solution for the 800,000 so-called “dreamers,” many of whom, including Ruth, have few memories of the countries they emigrated from.
Ruth met a Thursday deadline to renew DACA, as did thousands of other immigrants. If approved, she will remain documented until October 2019. Beyond that is uncertain.
“If nothing happens in that two-year period, I have to think about what I’m going to do. I don’t know if I’d be able to finish school,” Ruth said.
Ruth was brought to the United States at age 4 and grew up in California’s Bay Area.
Her father was a banker in Mexico. An aunt had repeatedly encouraged the family to move north, but he was skeptical. One day, the car he was a passenger in was held up by a man with a gun who knew he worked at a bank.
“That was the big push that made him want to move us to the U.S.,” Ruth said. “He figured that wasn’t the environment he wanted my brother and I to grow up in.”
Ruth, her brother, father and mother moved to California with legal visas. The permits eventually lapsed, and along with them the family’s legal status.
Despite her status, Ruth worried little of deportation.
“Both of my parents, we sat down and had a talk at one point, and my dad said ‘If God wants us to be here we’ll be here, and if not we’ll go,” said Ruth, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints.
Meanwhile, Ruth developed a steady respect for teachers who made school enjoyable for her. Positive experiences with instructors inspired her to study elementary education and become a teacher.
“I always looked forward to school and had a lot of great examples,” Ruth said. “So I knew I wanted to do something that had to do with kids.”
That plan hit a bump in high school, however. The blank Social Security number line on applications for college-sponsored programs held her from pursuing four-year higher education.
Ruth thought of attending community college while working at her parent’s business, where she had already spent summers. Her father became a janitor after moving to the U.S.; now he manages the same cleaning company, while his wife works with him in the office.
DACA widened Ruth’s possibilities. She applied when she was 15.
“I started to cry,” she said. “I feel like it’s opened my mind more to see I don’t have to settle for something less, I’m able to go to a private university and be with other people that often have more than me.”
It’s difficult to collect data on the number of DACA recipients pursuing post-secondary education, but the Migration Policy Institute estimated that 241,000 DACA-eligible students enrolled in college during 2014. Advocates point to DACA as an avenue for many of those students to support themselves through legal employment.
ACLU of Idaho Director Leo Morales condemned President Trump’s actions and their effects on DACA recipients, specifically in the Gem State. In a statement, he called on Congress to create a solution.
“DACA served as the lifeline for immigrants who came here as children seeking a better future, and now the threat of deportation hangs over their heads,” he said in the statement. “Our Idaho delegation needs to step up and join other members of Congress to resolve this issue once and for all and bring about permanent security and stability to the lives of DACA recipients and their loved ones.”
The possible lapse of DACA without a replacement throws a wrench in the plans of many recipients, including Ruth. She’s waiting to see what will happen at the federal level.
“I hope they’ve realized we’re really trying hard to put ourselves out there,” Ruth said. “We’re studying, we’re contributing economically and I personally feel like it’s something we deserve.”
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.