When Blanca Carrillo Salmeron, an undocumented immigrant in Norman, OK, received protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act in 2013, the whole family breathed a sigh of relief. Carrillo Salmeron’s parents are also undocumented and they have four American-born children, aged 11-20. Now, if they’re deported, Carrillo Salmeron, a university graduate and insurance agency representative, would be able to take care of the family.
“Since I got DACA, I’ve always been somewhat ready to take on a parental role, and my parents have trained me to do so because they’ve been optimistic that I’ll be able to stay here,” Carrillo Salmeron says. “But I’m 23, so it is terrifying to think that one day I could just wake up and be a parent of four. It would be a huge struggle for all of us. My siblings don’t deserve that.”
Carrillo Salmeron came to the United States from Mexico at age one but didn’t understand the repercussions of being undocumented until high school. Classmates got their drivers’ licenses and went on school trips without fear. “I felt like I was hiding, and that wasn’t easy,” Carrillo Salmeron explains.
Then, in September 2017, President Trump announced the end of the protection order. Now that the future of DACA is uncertain, the family is again afraid of the future. “I didn’t choose this path, but this is my home just as much as it is a natural born citizen’s home,” Carrillo Salmeron says. “I went to school here. I work here. I pay taxes here. I have relationships here.”
DACA not only shields undocumented immigrants like Carrillo Salmeron from deportation but allows them to work legally. They are able to get a drivers license, rent an apartment, open a bank account, and build up credit. After obtaining DACA, Carrillo Salmeron did all of these things. “DACA has allowed me to be more independent. It’s given me the opportunity to get a job, which I wasn’t able to do before. Now I can sustain myself.”
And yet DACA must be renewed every two years, which includes a $495 fee. When’s Carrillo Salmeron’s DACA status was up for renewal in December 2016, money was tight. Carrillo Salmeron tried to get a loan from a credit union but was turned away. “They said they could not help me if I was not a U.S. citizen,” says Carrillo Salmeron. “I’ve worked in banks and I know that’s not true.”
In the end, the generosity of strangers and friends allowed Carrillo Salmeron to maintain documented status in the United States for two more years. A GoFundMe account raised the full amount to cover renewal. “The community here is really great,” Carrillo Salmeron says. In fact, this kindness inspired Carrillo Salmeron and some friends to organize fundraisers through an art collective they’d started to raise money for other DACA renewals. They then donated this money to Dream Act Oklahoma. “I just want to help where I can,” says Carrillo Salmeron.
In fact, the country’s 800,000 DACA recipients contribute in ways most people don’t realize. When Barack Obama started the initiative in 2012, it was projected to add $329 billion to the national economy and create 1.4 million new jobs by 2030. Now experts are saying that the current administration’s decision to potentially end the program could cost the economy up to $200 billion. Meanwhile, young foreign-born adults like Carrillo Salmeron are stuck in limbo as legislatures duke it out over their future.
Carrillo Salmeron wants to see immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and their families. “Oklahoma is my home,” Carrillo Salmeron says. “My friendships are here, my family is here, my job is here, I’m part of the community here.” Without DACA, “I’d probably lose my job and wouldn’t be able to commute as easily. I would go back to being as scared as I was before. But a lot of people are doing amazing things to try and make policy changes, so I haven’t lost hope.”