Canadian dreamers bring new perspective to DACA fears

Many Canadian dreamers came to the United States legally, then lost their status

Samantha Ilacqua (KXAN Photo)
Samantha Ilacqua (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the Oct. 5 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deadline approaching next week, many young immigrants are filing applications, trying to extend their stay in the United States.

In Central Texas, most stories heard about dreamers are of those who came to the U.S. from Mexico, but another large population of immigrants is facing uncertainty in the Austin area as well — those from Canada.

Samantha Ilacqua was born in Montreal but says she remembers nothing about Canada. Her family moved to Texas when she was 2-years-old.

“I’ve built a life here,” she said. “I have friends here, I have family here. This is my home.”

Ilacqua says her family moved to the United States legally under her father’s work permit at the time. But, after a few years, her parents divorced, and her status changed when her father went back to Canada.

“My dad moved away when i was about eight,” she said, “And then from eight until 18, I was illegal.”

Austin-based immigration attorney Jason Finkelman says Ilacqua isn’t alone in Central Texas. “There are many individuals who are here who are from Canada, who are here undocumented, who may have overstayed a visa or entered the country without authorization,” Finkelman said.

When DACA was implemented, Ilacqua says she was presented with many new opportunities.

“It changed everything,” she said. I was able to get a car, I was able to get a job, I was able to get a license, I started going to school.”

Ilacqua is on-track to graduate from Austin Community College in May. She’s already jump-started her career in law, working as a paralegal.

“I’ve worked really hard to get where I am,” she said. “I’ve studied hard in school, I’ve worked hard at my job so that I could advance, and I’m scared that all of that’s just going to be ripped out from under me.”

She says even though it wouldn’t be as difficult to return to Canada as it would to Mexico, she still fears what could be if DACA is rescinded.

“I’ve started in my head working on Plan B, C and D to try to figure out how I can stay here,” she said. “If not, I do feel lucky that I have Canada to go back to. My dad does live there, but I don’t know what I’d do there. I work in law. I don’t know the laws there. I wouldn’t be able to get a job.”

Still, she feels fellow dreamers from Mexico are in an even worse position, not being met with the same kind of support.

“I think a lot of this war on immigration is about race,” she said, “And I think that people saying that it’s not are a little bit naive, because when I tell people about my situation, they say, ‘oh that’s so sad for you, I hope that you can make it work.’ If I were Mexican, I don’t think they’d have the same sentiment, and I don’t think that’s fair at all.”

If DACA is rescinded, Ilacqua will face the same risk of being deported as DACA recipients from Mexico. She worries immigration officials could show up at her home and deport her at any time, because they have so much of her personal information. Finkelman says it’s a legitimate fear.

“Any DACA beneficiary who’s here has had to disclose on an application to U.S. citizenship and immigration services all of their personal information,” Finkelman said. “Where they live, where they’re working, where they go to school, information about their parents — so there’s a lot of personal sensitive information that’s been given over to the Department of Homeland Security from DACA beneficiaries.”

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