American companies need young people like Cesar Guzman, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Texas at El Paso. U.S. employers are already struggling to find qualified workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; in 2016, there were more than 12 STEM jobs posted for every unemployed STEM workers. And, by 2020, the United States is projected to be facing a shortage of one million STEM professionals.
“I have wanted to be a mechanical engineer since I was little,” says Guzman. “If someone’s car broke down, I liked to see if I could fix it. Little by little, I became more intrigued.”
Unfortunately, however, Guzman is one of 800,000 young people who are only authorized to work in the United States thanks to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a 2012 policy that allows qualifying undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children to defer deportation for renewable two-year periods and to work legally in the United States and that the Trump administration has promised to rescind. Unless Congress takes legislative action to save DACA, Guzman and his peers will face deportation.
By taking (DACA) away, they are putting us back into a little cage where we won’t be able to do much.
“DACA and the chance of a Dream Act have given us incentive to work more,” Guzman says. “By taking it away, they are putting us back into a little cage where we won’t be able to do much. We won’t be able to look for a better job or help our families. We might not even be able to stay with our families.”
Guzman not only wants to develop his own engineering skills, he also wants to create an auto repair business that helps other people develop their own mechanical skills. “I want to help people by giving them a workplace to gain some knowledge,” he says. Nor do his ambitions stop there: One day Guzman would like to design and produce his own cars. His entrepreneurial drive is typical among immigrants, who are nearly twice as likely as their U.S.-born counterparts to start a business.
In 2001, when Guzman was 5 years old, he left Mexico with his mother and older brother to be reunited with his father, who had moved to the United States shortly after he was born. Guzman was 16 years old when DACA was implemented, and it changed his life. Now he is worried that he will lose everything he has worked for and possibly be sent to a country he barely remembers. “We didn’t have a choice whether to come here or not,” he says. “We left home without really knowing we wouldn’t be able to go back. Even for those of us who have family in Mexico, in reality we don’t really know them anymore. It’s impossible.”
Guzman says many Americans who are critical of new arrivals have grandparents or great-grandparents who came from another country. “At some point, their ancestors were immigrants too, so we do have that in common,” he says. “We are not doing any harm. We are working hard, paying our taxes, and doing things by the book. I don’t see why there is a problem.”