Today we are starting a weekly series highlighting people who have come forward and applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as those who will be coming forward to apply for expanded DACA or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Since President Obama announced DACA in 2012, more than 638,000 people have received deferred action, meaning they can live without the fear of deportation and continue their contributions with a work permit. While DACA does not provide a path to citizenship, we know that it has been transformative as recipients are able to pursue their dreams and improve their economic well-being.
The expansion of DACA and DAPA has brought hope to millions of immigrants and families, including those who were initially unable to apply for DACA because they were over the age of 31. The president’s plan to expand DACA and establish DAPA would let up to 5.2 million more people live without the fear of losing a loved one due to deportation policies. When he announced that he was using his legitimate authority, we heard from our network that administrative relief would change their lives and keep their families together.
One person who has benefited from DACA and who has created incredible opportunities to give back to his community is Emilio Vicente. Emilio grew up in North Carolina and is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We met him back in 2010 when he was regularly traveling from North Carolina to Washington, DC, to share his story with his senators and urging them to support the DREAM Act. Emilio became a regular at his senators’ events; the senators and their staff knew that he was there to deliver a message of the DREAM Act’s implications for him and for his state. He continued his advocacy efforts for immigration reform, joining NCLR during the National Latino Advocacy Days in 2011, and serving as a member of the NCLR Líderes Youth Advisory Committee. He also participated in a town hall panel at the NCLR Annual Conference in New Orleans alongside NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía and Eva Longoria.
During this time, Emilio has worked at competitive internships in Seattle and Washington, DC, and has raised money for scholarships for undocumented youth. Last year, Emilio ran for UNC student body president and drew the attention of national press in doing so. The New York Times reporter who spent time with him during the campaign described Emilio as a “one-man whirlwind of engagement.”
On what DACA has meant for him, Emilio said:
“DACA for me means not being under the threat of deportation at any moment and being able to use my degree once I graduate. I can also sleep better at night knowing that my brothers and sisters-in-law, who qualify for DAPA, won’t be deported and separated from their families at any moment. We need a humane immigration bill that is permanent but until then, DACA and DAPA will protect many of us from the separation of our families.”
Once he graduates in the spring, Emilio hopes to continue advocating for immigration reform in Washington, DC. Receiving DACA will allow him to put his incredible talent and experience to use—so Washington better look out!