Hispanic youth in Georgia see benefits of DACA

May 1, 2015

By Red Denty
NNA News Fellow | Georgia Southern University

Wayne County’s Ulises Lopez was 6-years old when he entered the U.S. illegally.

“I don’t remember much of the trip. I was really young,” Lopez said. “I can tell you it wasn’t a fun trip.”

He made the journey along with his mother and sister from Oaxaca in southern Mexico to north of the U.S. border. Their journey was paid for by Lopez’s father, who was also in America as an undocumented worker.

Throughout Lopez’s life, he had to constantly worry about being found out and then being deported—even while he attended Wayne County High School and became the starting kicker for the football team. He also started for the school’s soccer team, went to prom and participated in other high school activities. He couldn’t drive then because he was undocumented.

Uli, as his friends call him, is now 23 years old, has been living in the U.S. for 17 years and works on a farm in Surrency, GA. For the first time in his life, he is earning a taxable wage and driving with a legal license.

“It’s great not having to worry about a $1,000 ticket and other fines for driving without a license every time I get behind the wheel,” he said. “I have a Social Security number and everything now; it’s a great feeling.”

In addition to a license, Lopez also has a renewable two-year work permit that further verifies his legal status in America.

Lopez said he has the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to thank for all of this. The policy, which was announced by President Barack Obama June 2012, has the potential to help the nearly 2 million people in the same situation as Lopez receive temporary relief from deportation.

However, there are many who oppose the implementation of this new policy and its expansion, the Deferred Action for Parent Accountability.

The driving force behind the opposition to DACA and DAPA is with those who believe that Obama overstepped his authority.

“My main concern with the president’s actions is the constitutional separation of power,” Rep. Buddy Carter, R-GA, said during an interview in March. “President Obama is creating law, which is the job of Congress. If we don’t stop him now on this issue, then there is no stopping him.”

Carter only echoed a sentiment that many Republican lawmakers have felt since the announcement of Obama’s executive order, but the separation of powers isn’t the only issue that Republicans have with DACA and DAPA.

Those with concerns say they want to focus on securing the country’s borders to stop the flow of illegal immigrants before they focus on a legalization process, according to Conn Carroll, a White House correspondent for the conservatively-aligned website, TownHall.com.

“We need to start with a substantially secure border, one where there are authorities on both sides that are stopping illegal immigration, one like our border with Canada,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-GA, said. “There are 43 legal ways to get into the country. We need to make the legal immigration system work before we focus on the illegal immigration system.”

DAPA and DACA are not just facing opposition, though. They have their fair share of support.

“There is legal precedent from presidents, both Republican and Democrat, where they use their executive power to focus the enforcement of immigration law,” White House officials said. “Legal scholars, as well as other high-level legal voices, agree with the president’s actions.”

The White House also expects the gross domestic product to grow, wages to improve for all workers and job growth to prosper as a result of more and more undocumented immigrants’ gaining legal status.

The National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., is also a heavy supporter of Obama’s executive orders and has spent years lobbying him to take action.

“Since it was clear Congress wasn’t going to do anything, we thought it was critically important that President Obama use his executive power to make the necessary changes to immigration law,” said Laura Vazquez, a senior immigration legislative analyst for the NCLR. “Every president since Eisenhower has used executive action on immigration. Obama is definitely not the first to do this.”

For now, DACA is currently in place and provides deportation relief for hundreds of thousands of childhood arrivals who entered the country illegally. However, DAPA is currently being blocked based on an injunction filed in the District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The White House, along with the Department of Justice, is appealing the ruling.

“This is not the first time that a lower immigration court has ruled something as illegal that was later ruled constitutional by a higher court,” White House officials say.

Lopez’s parents have since returned to Mexico. However, he said he plans to continue to renew his DACA paperwork every two years.

“I don’t plan on giving this up now that I have it. It’s allowing me to stay in the country I call home,” he said. “My next step is to get permanent residency, and then one day, I hope to become a citizen.”