Child immigrants face last Christmas without status protection

Maria Ramirez dines with her family. Her status in the United States is currently protected by DACA, which expires soon. (Photo courtesy: Maria Ramirez)
Maria Ramirez dines with her family. Her status in the United States is currently protected by DACA, which expires soon. (Photo courtesy: Maria Ramirez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  More than 100,000 young people who were brought into the United States illegally face an uncertain future this Christmas. This is the last December until Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — known as DACA — expires. It lets children who were brought to America illegally have temporary legal status.

The DACA program was originally started by an executive order issued by President Barrack Obama in 2012. In September, President Donald Trump ordered to end the program. He called it an amnesty-first approach. He gave Congress six months to pass a replacement. That deadline is March 5.

The first year after graduation was a hard one for Maria Ramirez. She’ll travel outside of Austin to celebrate Christmas with her family. Her parents brought her here illegally from Mexico when she was 5.

“I know that they sacrificed a lot to make sure that I attended here, to make sure I was even alive,” said Ramirez.

Her parents are not citizens. Her daughter is. Right now, she is protected under DACA. She worries without it she won’t be able to continue her path to law school and immigration officials could deport her away from her family.

“I love them so much and I admire them. And I know there are very few people that can do what they do. Without papers, without any protection to continue living their lives to make sure their family is OK,” said Ramirez.

Democrats in D.C. pushed for a fix but were delayed until next year.

“The time for discussion is coming to an end. The time for decision is now,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged Republican leaders earlier this week.

Republicans say they’re on board with it.

“We don’t hold children responsible for the acts of their parents. Children who are brought here from a very young age through no fault of their own. We’re not going to punish them,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.

But Maria and thousands of other families fear what could happen and wait for their fates to be decided in 2018.

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