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A New Jersey Lawyer And DACA Recipient


In about two weeks, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is set to expire - or maybe not. In September, President Trump called for the program to start winding down as of March 5. And Congress has yet to come up with a replacement that will allow DACA recipients to stay. Adding to the confusion, though, Trump’s order is being challenged in the courts, yet many DACA recipients continue to move ahead with their lives and careers as best they can. One of them is lawyer Parthiv Patel. He was admitted to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Bar Associations even though his legal status caused a delay. He spoke with our co-host Steve Inskeep.

PARTHIV PATEL: Originally, my parents had left India - and they left me with my grandparents - to seek better opportunity in the United States. Thereafter, they had sent for me, and I arrived to the United States at the age of 5 and lived in Jersey ever since.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: And what did your parents do for a living when they got to New Jersey?

PATEL: So they originally, you know, worked in restaurants trying to make ends meet. And they used to work 14, 15 hours a day to, you know, give me a better opportunity at the American dream.

INSKEEP: And what was your dream as a kid?

PATEL: When I was 5 or 6, I always wanted to be an astronaut, so - as a typical kid. But when I got a little bit older, got into middle school, my dream became, you know, becoming an attorney.

INSKEEP: Tell me why you wanted to become an attorney as opposed to any number of other professions.

PATEL: So like I said, my parents used to work 14, 15, 16 hours a day, and they'd done enough to save substantial amounts of money to be able to take partnership in a business. But them not knowing the laws, them not really understanding, you know, how the system in America worked, my parents ended up losing all the money. So that kind of - that story resonated with me because, yeah, as an attorney, my job is to be a zealous advocate for my clients, but it's also to make sure that, you know, everyone kind of gets a fair shake in the sense that no one is getting defrauded.

INSKEEP: In thinking about a career in the law, did you feel strange at all because you knew that your own story included a violation of the law?

PATEL: I understand what people might see as me kind of - it kind of being ironic that I'm an attorney even though I technically violated the law. But when you violate the law, there has to be some kind of intent on doing so. So when you're asking a 5-year-old if they violated a law, well, if you don't really have the intent, how can you violate the law?

INSKEEP: What changes has your life gone through in the last several months since President Trump announced he intended to end the DACA program?

PATEL: I can say there's a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of just worry in general. And I know that's a common feeling amongst DREAMers. It's hard to plan out your life, essentially. It's hard to figure out what you want to do - something as simple as in buying a car. Is it a smart move for me to buy a car considering I'm - you know, my DACA expires in six months at this point? If - I was just recently married. Do I buy a house? And can - is this a smart move to take out a mortgage? Even when you talk about just, you know, general having babies or having kids, is that a smart move considering my DACA expires in six months? It leaves a lot of uncertainty facing immigrants in general because we - it's hard to plan out, you know, what's going to happen and live a meaningful and successful life when you can't really gauge where you exactly stand. And that does lead to a lot of anxiety, a lot of distress, amongst DREAMers.

INSKEEP: And so if your status were to expire, do you have in mind what plan B is?

PATEL: So that's the difficult question. As DREAMers, we always leave out a little bit of hope hoping that something does happen. But as the days keep passing by and as this March deadline is coming, the question is where do - where do we go? If we don't stay here, which is our home, the United States, where do we go? After March 5, there will be a thousand or 1,200 DREAMers expiring every single day, which opens them up for deportation at any given moment.

INSKEEP: Parthiv Patel, a lawyer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, thanks very much.

PATEL: Thank you. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.