Long Island Teen, 21, Imagines Life Without DACA

Oct 5, 2017

Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.

Over 800,000 immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. as children, participate in DACA, which allows them to hold two-year work permits, without fear of deportation.  

Congress now has six months to come up with a replacement for DACA, and the DREAMers have until October 5th to renew their visas and extend their stay for another two years.

21-year-old Stephanie Henriquez has already renewed her visa in order to stay in the U.S.

When President Obama implemented DACA in 2012, Henriquez, an undocumented El Salvadoran immigrant, was 16.

“It was awesome. It was like a gateway to probably getting residency without having to go through the process of either marrying or getting sponsorship.”

The student visa that Stephanie received from DACA gave her a chance to come out of the shadows. She no longer feared deportations. She could apply for jobs, obtain a driver’s license and Social Security number, and even get a scholarship from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.

I feel like a lot of people have this misconception of [DACA] students getting financial aid. We don't.

"St. Joseph’s gave me a full ride. If I wouldn’t have gotten a full ride from any school, then I wouldn’t have gone.”

Stephanie does not receive any government aid. She is excluded from most forms of welfare, including food stamps and Medicaid.  

“We’re just doing everything that every citizen is doing without the help of the government. In retrospect, I think we actually do help the economy because we are paying taxes.”

Stephanie studies political science and criminal justice in hopes of going to law school. She also interns at the office of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer.

But without DACA, she would lose her internship and her chance to get into law school. Her driver’s license would also be revoked. So even though St. Joseph’s would overlook her undocumented status, her only way to get to school would be on a three-hour train ride despite it being only 13 miles from where she lives.    

“I don’t think I’d be in college, because it’s just so far away.”

When Stephanie’s parents signed her up for DACA, they provided all their personal information to the government, but now that information could be used to deport them.

“And that scares me because my parents are under the TPS (Temporary Protected Status) program and they’ve given all their information, they pay their taxes.

What if they show up one day and they arrest my parents? What do I do?

Stephanie fears that if President Trump ends DACA, then similar programs like TPS that her parents are under might end as well. It would mean her little sister, who is 14 and was born in the U.S., could end up alone, separated from her entire family.

But Stephanie is not letting fear rule her life. She just gave all her information to the government, again, in order to renew what might be her final visa.

“I’m trying to live here. I’m trying to show them that I’m willing to do whatever I have [to do] to be here.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Stephanie Henriquez is 16. She came to the U.S. at 16. She is now 21.