Dreamers' Nightmare: D.A.C.A. Recipients Face Uncertain Future

A NewsChannel 9 Special Report on the risks now faced by D.A.C.A. recipients

Monica Montalvo and Robert Valadez Pena both were born in Ciudad Juarez, but the city they call home is on the other side of the border -- in El Paso, Texas.

"I've been here since I was one, so every memory I have is from here," said Valadez Pena.

"Our dream was to work, to come here with our children so they have a better future," said Montalvo.

Both are pursuing what they consider their American dream. Valadez Pena, a D.A.C.A. recipient, working and pursuing his sociology degree at the University of Texas El Paso.

"I always envisioned myself becoming a sociologist, being a leader in my community, doing big things," said Valadez Pena.

Montalvo, helping to run her family pizza business and her own salon in far east El Paso.

"It was always my dream to open a salon here," said Montalvo.

After a decade in the U.S. and a grueling immigration process, Montalvo's American dream came true in 2012.

"She was really excited to get her citizenship," said Jose Montalvo, Monica's husband.

"I felt great," said Montalvo.

But because of a twist of fate, one of those dreams is now in jeopardy.

"I'm here today to announce the program known as D.A.C.A. that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded," said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

That September 5th decision by the Trump administration repealed the executive order that temporarily protected recipients of D.A.C.A, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from deportation.

"I really don't know what's going to happen next," said Valadez Pena.

Federal statistics show there are around 800,000 D.A.C.A. recipients in the U.S., 5000 in the borderland alone, according to the Border Network for Human Rights. Their fate -- now in the hands of Congress to come up with a solution.

"D.A.C.A. was a partial, limited solution to a failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform," said Dr. Josiah Heyman, the U.T.E.P. director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies.

Dr. Heyman said D.A.C.A. recipients are now in gray area, since the October application renewal date has passed.

"Sooner or later, transition will end, no new apps," said Heyman. "You have a large number of people who are going to transition back into being out of status."

With this lack of legal status comes a new vulnerability.

"That means they can be stopped, questioned in Texas by state police and by I.C.E. if they're found as collateral people when I.C.E. does a fugitive operation," said Dr. Heyman.

Valadez Pena said it's something that D.A.C.A. recipients especially feel in the borderland.

This is a militarized border town so the fact that there are so many law enforcement officers, it's intimidating," said Valadez Pena.

"Executive amnesty by Obama was simply the president declaring he wasn't going to follow federal immigration laws," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Though the rhetoric from Republican lawmakers may be harsh in Washington, those in their same party here in the borderland take a different tone.

"We need to work with the kids that were brought here," said Adolpho Telles, the Chairman of the G.O.P. Party of El Paso County.

Telles said D.A.C.A. recipients should be given a path to citizenship, but not their parents.

"I believe children that came with them did not commit a crime," said Telles.

Congress has until March of 2018 to come up with that solution.

"Somewhere we have to meet in the middle and there's got to be a way to do it." said Telles.

Until then, the worst case scenario -- deportation.

When I asked if Valadez Pena could begin to imagine what life would be like in Ciudad Juarez, he replied, "no."

An uncertain road, with 800-thousand dreams hanging in the balance.

In early November, House Republicans said they hope to pass compromise legislation for D.A.C.A. recipients by the end of 2017.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, it's estimated that about a quarter of eligible D.A.C.A. Recipients missed the October deadline to renew their applications.

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