DACA & College
Updated: Apr 12
Because of many, many activists who had been fighting for us before I even knew I was one of the “us”, the DREAM Act came before Congress where politicians as always hemmed and hawed and did a whole lot of nothing. Because of their inaction, President Obama created DACA via Executive Order. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is exactly what it sounds like. Deferred Action. Meaning the actions will come later but for now here is the ability to work legally and a social security card. DACA did not and still does not provide a pathway to citizenship and is not a legal status of any kind. At any possible moment it can be ripped away from all of us like it was on September 5th, 2017 when President Trump ended the program and a federal court had to step in to revive it. I have been on this “deferred” status for 10 years, a limbo that I do not think many people can imagine having to endure.
I was granted my new status in January of my senior year of high school. Just as a side note, I want to call it a miracle but I know that so many activists put the work in in order to defend me and provide me with a better future. If it wasn’t for those activists, who would even know about kids who were brought here without papers? It was miracle #1 for me that this all occurred before I turned 18. Having DACA before you turn 18 means you don’t accrue any “unlawful presence” which is what gets you banned from the country if you ever try to leave and come back in someday.
Anyways, I was still not eligible for financial aid or scholarships but at least it was something. I prepared to go to county college knowing I would have to only take a few credits at a time since I was paying the international student tuition price for my first semester. Through some fluke, I was charged the in-county rate for my first fall semester and by the following semester, Gov. Chris Christie officially changed the law and allowed us to pay the in-county rate. I was able to up my course load and get back on track. I graduated with my associate's degree in 3 years while working multiple jobs and internships and being involved in many student groups on campus.
As I neared the end of my time at the county college I realized I was going to have to go through the same issues as I did in high school, where could I afford to go to get my bachelor’s degree? I couldn’t take out loans, still did not qualify for financial aid and was still barred from most scholarships. I was a semi-finalist for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship which would’ve paid for my bachelor’s degree. I applied to 9 schools as a transfer student with a GPA of 3.983 and even still, their maximum scholarship amounts were nowhere what I needed in order to afford my degree. I remember calling NYU because they sent me an acceptance letter but nothing about scholarship money. The woman in the office thought I was insane because I told her I was an out-of-state, undocumented, transfer student. She all but laughed me off the phone. I came in 2nd for a full ride scholarship to Drew University and Fairleigh Dickinson University offered me $19K a year…when their tuition was around $39K. I was getting prepared to either not continue my education or start asking people to loan me money when miracle #2 occurred. In December of 2016, just as I was applying to schools, Rutgers Newark announced a full ride scholarship for anyone who transferred from a county college and had a good GPA and there was NO citizenship requirement. I couldn’t believe it. I applied quicker than you can say “free degree” and by 2018 I graduated debt free with my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Media Studies and with a minor in Legal Studies. I am not a religious person, but someone, somewhere has to be looking out for me.
So here I stand, a college educated woman with a decent job at 27 years old. And I’m still no closer to citizenship than I was at 17.
Rutgers University Newark Campus