PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Five years ago today the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order went into action under President Barack Obama, allowing nearly a million dreamers to come out of the shadows. Philadelphia City Hall hosted a press conference Tuesday marking the milestone.
In Pennsylvania, a reported 5,900 undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally as children known as “dreamers” have benefited from DACA.
The executive order provided the group the temporary benefit of work permits, drivers’ licenses and access to colleges, as well as to peace of mind from deportation. Applicants must apply every two years.
“Having DACA has changed my life,” says Amaya Pabon, who crossed the border from Mexico into Arizona as a child. When she later learned that she could not attend college or drive a car, it devastated her.
“You get distressed, you get depressed, you don’t know what to do,” she says, “But I decided to fight.”
Pabon applied for DACA five years ago. Before that time, she worked in Pennsylvania restaurants under the table, but thanks to DACA Pabon is now in college at Temple University.
“It’s been difficult,” she says, noting DACA recipients do not have access to grants or financial aid. “But I have learned a new language, I have meet new people and now I work in the medical field.”
“We’re in moment of hope, but also a moment of uncertainty,” says Sundrop Carter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. “We have a president who has overtly said he is against DACA, he has deported thousands, ripping apart many families.”
Carter believes there will be a fight to keep the rights DACA recipients have.
“States like Texas and others are already threatening to sue to end DACA,” Carter said, “So we have to fight not only for DACA, but for all rights.”
“What happened in Charlottesville is a reminder to people of color that racism is still alive and well,” says Oliva Vasquez, a DACA recipient. “We must continue the fight.”
Mayor Jim Kenney congratulated the DACA recipients at City Hall, telling them that the city of Philadelphia has their back and will remain a sanctuary city.
“We’ll go down fighting in court or wherever we have to go to keep this from happening,” says Kenney, “We won’t back up and will continue fighting until this president is gone.”
It is reported that nearly a million dreamers have received DACA status.