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She Was Shielded Under DACA, Now Worried What Trump May Do


Wrapped up in the debate over immigration policy is the fate of the roughly 700,000 undocumented young people known as DREAMers. Under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, they were given two-year work permits and have temporary relief from deportation. But the future of DACA, as it's known, is unclear. President Trump during his campaign said he would put an end to the program.

So we're going to talk now to Ciriac Alvarez Valle. She is a DREAMer who was brought to Salt Lake City from her family's native Mexico when she was only 5 years old. She's now 22, and she's wrapping up her last semester at the University of Utah. Ciriac Alvarez Valle joins us now. Good morning.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you first applied for the DACA program when you were in high school. What did that mean for you in furthering your education and for your life generally?

ALVAREZ VALLE: For me, I was able to apply at a pivotal age, you know, when I was graduating high school. That way I had more options versus someone who didn't have DACA when they were seniors just because I knew that funding was limited for undocumented students to college. So I was able to work and save up for my college tuition, for my books and for my supplies. And so being able to apply for DACA during my senior year gave me some hope.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It must have been nerve-wracking, though, to actually take the step to apply for DACA, to, as some people say, come out of the shadows.

ALVAREZ VALLE: Yeah, it definitely was because we had to give all of our information - where we live, where we've been these past 15 years and just everything that I've done my whole life from certificates, from church records, school attendance records, grades, et cetera. It was a bit nerve-wracking, right? There's still that fear in the back of my head that this information could be used against us. There's still that small possibility that it might. And that still looms in the back of my head.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is it like being undocumented in America today?

ALVAREZ VALLE: It's frustrating because a lot of people don't understand and don't want to understand issues of undocumented people. They just say, get in the back of the line. You should have done it right. And it's not like that for a lot of us. It's scary being undocumented, especially for people who aren't young like me, who don't have DACA available to them. It's really uncertain what's to come.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What did your family tell you about being undocumented when you were growing up?

ALVAREZ VALLE: It was something that I always knew. My mom would always tell us not to tell people where we were from, that we didn't have papers. Like, (speaking Spanish) is what they would tell us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why have you decided to go public about being a person without documents in the United States?

ALVAREZ VALLE: Because I don't think people realize how many undocumented immigrants they talk to on the - on a daily basis. I think a lot of people are not - are kind of ignorant in not knowing that they talk to them, that they work with them, that they see them every day. And, like, telling them my status and being open to answering questions, it definitely gives that opportunity to have the conversations that we need for immigration reform, for things to actually change.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: People listening to this might say your family broke the law when they came into this country without the proper documents and the proper authorization. Why should you be allowed to stay?

ALVAREZ VALLE: Yeah. And we did, but it's because the laws are made this way. And it's unfair to have everything else be able to migrate except humans. Everything else has been globalized and changed. And migration is part of, you know, the globalization process. And if we could have done it legally, we would have, but the opportunity wasn't there for us. And so my parents took the risk. And they knew they were taking that risk to do it because there is more opportunities here in America. And being able to say that I'm about to graduate college, I can affirm that, to say that there was more opportunities for my family.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are you hoping now for DREAMers like yourself?

ALVAREZ VALLE: I do hope that there's more than DACA. As we see now, there's a lot of fear and anxiety as we await for President Trump to do something, whether he's going to take it away or not. And so I hope that there's more actual change that can keep us away from that fear of deportation looming over our heads or the fear that DACA will be taken away, that fear of uncertainty again. I do hope there is more than just DACA.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ciriac Alvarez Valle is a senior at the University of Utah and a DREAMer. We're going to be checking back in with her over the next few months as President Trump's immigration plan unfolds. Thank you.

ALVAREZ VALLE: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.