Two years ago, Ana Zamora was on top of the world. She’d written a letter to then-President Barack Obama, and he invited her to his State of the Union address.
Zamora has spent the two years since teaching kindergarten at Uplift Triumph Prep, a charter school near Dallas Love Field. And despite having a permit to work in the U.S. until 2018, she’s feeling a little shaky.
“If you put yourself in my place, this is exactly how I feel. You’re just walking and you don’t know when you’re going to fall,” Zamora said.
Three-quarters of a million young unauthorized immigrants have gotten work permits and deportation relief through the DACA program, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Obama created it to keep approved young immigrants in this country.
Zamora’s been a recipient since it was created in 2012. She has to reapply every other year.
Before he was elected president, Donald Trump talked about so-called “DREAMers” like Zamora during the campaign last fall.
“I want Dreamers to come from the United States,” Trump said. “I want the people in the United States who have children...I want them to have dreams also. We’re always talking about dreamers for other people. I want the children that are growing up in the United States to be dreamers also. They’re not dreaming right now.”
In a press conference last week, President Trump hit a different note.
“We are going to deal with DACA with heart,” he said. “I have to deal with a lot of politicians – don’t forget. And I have to convince them that what I’m saying is right.”
Trump sparked protests at airports in Texas and across the country last month with executive orders that targeted immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, Syrian refugees and travel in and out of the United States. Not DACA.
Still, Zamora’s looking for something a little more stable.
“Throughout time we have seen that it was only a Band-Aid,” she said. “Currently, I feel like many people don’t feel safe because DACA is just a permit for you to be able to work. You’re not legally here, and it can be taken away at any moment.”
'I feel like we are Americans'
The term “DREAMer” comes from the Dream Act – first proposed in Congress 15 years ago, but never passed.
A bipartisan group in Washington is now behind what’s known as the “BRIDGE Act.” It would give people like Zamora three years of deportation relief and permission to work.
Even though Republican senators like Lindsay Graham and Jeff Flake have signed on, Lisa Garcia Bedolla doesn’t hold out much hope. She’s a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and specializes in race, gender and class.
“I think the chances are low,” she said. “But I think the fact the chances are low really speak to how much the context of immigration policy has changed. And the fact that we’re at a place where just the extension of DACA, which is less than the DREAM Act in the sense it does not allow for a true path to legalization for these individuals...The fact that even that has no likelihood of passing in the House of Representatives really speaks to how far we’ve come on this issue.”
Zamora has come a long way, too. She was a toddler when her parents left San Luis Potosí, Mexico for Dallas. Her two younger siblings were born here, leaving her as the family’s outlier.
“I never made the decision to come to the United States,” she said. It was my parents' decision. So sometimes we’re blamed for that, but really we’re just here. We’ve served so much to the United States. And the United States has given to us as well. For us, I feel like we are Americans, so we don’t see it another way.”
And even though she says it’s hard to plan anything beyond the next two years, she still holds onto the dream of a green card.