Professor, students weigh in on DACA's uncertain future

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Photo Credit: Evelyn Moreno | Daily Texan Staff

Law professor Elissa Steglich said America’s current effort towards solid immigration reform puts unnecessary strain on undocumented immigrants, and a more permanent solution is needed.

“(DACA) was not supposed to be an end goal,” Steglich said at a lecture Thursday hosted by the Liberal Arts Council. “It really was something that was supposed to at least ameliorate the major hardship of living in the United States as an undocumented person.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, enacted under the Obama administration in 2012, provided young undocumented immigrants with work permits and protection from deportation — a protection that had to be renewed every two years. Steglich said DACA did not provide a concrete pathway to citizenship for recipients.

Following President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA Sept. 5, Congress has proposed legislation to address the needs of undocumented immigrants who will eventually lose their protected status, Steglich said. Just last week, Congress introduced the Succeed Act that Steglich said would only benefit a small percentage of DACA holders.

“It would be an up to 17-year process of having to maintain either work, schooling or military service throughout that time period before someone could receive citizenship,” Steglich said. “An extraordinary, onerous process that would really only benefit a small percentage of current DACA holders.”

The event also featured government senior Sam Cervantes, a student who is personally affected by U.S. immigration policy.

Cervantes, a DACA recipient who moved to the U.S. when he was five, spent most of his life in the United States. Cervantes said he began to realize the barriers of undocumentation as he got older.

“There was this invisible wall that was built that I had no control of,” Cervantes said. “There was no way that I could remove this barrier, and it felt as if I was operating under set boundaries that were extremely constricting.”

Cervantes said that with Congress going into recess in three months, there is little foresight into what will unfold.

“Now we’re in this place of ‘What do we do?’” Cervantes said. “The program is essentially going to be phased out by 2020. So every year, 20,000 DACA recipients are going to lose their status.”

Jason Choto, graduate student in educational psychology, said Trump’s decision left affected individuals in limbo, uncertain and scared about the future.

“The way he did it is unacceptable,” Choto said. “It is just throwing a community of people into a state of despair for no reason.”