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Paula Mireya Hernandez Rosales came to the United States when she was only four-months-old. Her parents moved from Guatemala and eventually settled down in Providence, Rhode Island.
“My family migrated here in search [of] a better, more secure life for their children,” Rosales told AwesomenessTV. “They were running away from poverty and drug wars. They were searching for better schools and a better financial environment.”
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Rosales, now 19, feels that she has spent her entire life “hiding from the cops, being afraid, [and] constantly worried” about being deported. It wasn’t until President Obama announced in 2012 that his administration would stop deporting illegal immigrants who met the criteria of the DREAM act, that Rosales finally felt relief.
“At the moment, I was in complete shock,” she recalled. “I felt protected.”
The DREAM act sought to protect young people like Rosales who came to the U.S. when they were children, had lived here for more than five years, received an education here, and were of good moral character.
Those who qualified would receive conditional status in the country and eventually — after completing higher education or serving in the military — would be able to apply to be a permanent resident. President Obama named it the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan, or DACA.
Rosales, who is currently working full-time, applied for DACA in 2016 and was approved on January 20, 2017 — ironically, the day President Donald Trump was sworn into office.
The process took almost a full year. “When I finally received it I was filled with joy and strength. It meant I could finally obtain a driver’s license and most importantly, work legally,” she said.
Trump, on the other hand, believes that DACA punishes natural-born Americans, takes jobs, and pushes down wages. He announced earlier this month that the program would be ending.
Naturally, there was outrage from Dreamers — and the thousands upon thousands of Americans who wanted to protect them. Support for keeping DACA in place trended on social media for days, and celebrities used their platforms to spread the message.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Shailene Woodley, Gina Rodriguez, Kristen Bell, John Mayer, Kerry Washington, and many others spoke out in support of Dreamers. Selena Gomez implored her fans to take action with this message:
But Rosales’ home state of Rhode Island recently stepped up in an incredible way — and has proven its determination to protect its residents.
Earlier this week, Rhode Island announced that it has secured over $170,000 to be used exclusively to help Dreamers pay their DACA renewal fees (which cost $495 for two-year work and study permits).
Applications are due October 5 and affect those whose permits are up on March 5, 2018. Rhode Island’s governor, Gina Raimondo, said that no dreamer in her state will be responsible for paying this fee. Our hearts swoon!
While Rosales’ personal DACA status is not yet up for renewal, she recalls her initial reaction to the fees in 2016.
“When I found out how much it would cost, I was shocked and stress[ed],” she said. Fortunately for her, she was in the custody of the Department of Children Youth and Families, who had started her immigration process, and they were able to pay for it.
“When I heard about the generous donations to this immigration cause, I was just astounded and I thought for a moment that maybe we can make a difference,” she said of Rhode Island’s initiative.
“Unfortunately for me, I’m not included in one of the DACA recipients that can renew their permits, and this means that when my permit expires I will become vulnerable to deportation,” she explained, differentiating herself from DACA recipients who are allowed to renew now.
“In my case, [this] affects me a lot because I have a two-year-old who was born and raised here in Providence. Without my permit, I just wonder how I’m going to be the head of my household.”
Although Rosales’ permit is not even half up, she is already understandably filled with concern. Those who are not renewing now will likely be at the mercy of Congress, who would have to pass legislation granting her a form of legal status.
Otherwise Rosales will go back to living in constant fear of deportation — and could potentially be sent back to Guatemala. In the meantime, she expressed a real sense of relief that she lives in Rhode Island.
“This has to be one of the safest places there is right now [if you are] illegally here,” she said. “Everyone protects each other here. We all know where we came from.”
(All images courtesy of Paula Mireya Hernandez Rosales)