As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments surrounding President Obama’s executive orders on immigration, known as expanded DACA (DACA+) and DAPA, Define American will be sharing the stories of undocumented immigrants who would either be able to seek temporary deportation relief under one of the two programs currently frozen by the court system, and those who are afforded the same protections under DACA. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children limited benefits including temporary deportation relief and work authorization. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) grants the same benefits to the parents of U.S. citizens. Neither are a pathway to citizenship. The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on DACA+ and DAPA on April 18, with a decision expected sometime in June. With a lack of action in Congress, the executive orders are currently the only national immigration efforts in motion.
Uriel Casas, 36
Uriel came to the U.S. with his family as a child on a tourist visa. Multiple attempts at normalizing the family’s status were unsuccessful, so Uriel has lived most of his life as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. He narrowly missed the cut-off for the initial DACA program, though he would qualify under expanded DACA. Despite the challenges that come with his status, Uriel worked his way through an undergraduate degree and went on to earn his MBA. He is currently a personal trainer to many of the D.C. area’s most high-profile residents, including ESPN host Tony Kornheiser and TW Perry Chairman Ed Quinn, Jr. Uriel joined Define American’s “Coming Out” campaign in 2015 with a profile in the Washington Post.
What would a decision in favor of DACA+/DAPA mean for your life?
It would mean the end of my three decade nightmare. It would give me legal status in my country for the first time in 28 years. I have had to walk away from so many opportunities because of my status; I’ve been living in immigration purgatory since 1987. A favorable decision would give me the hope that I’ve longed for my entire life and allow me to accept any one of dozens of opportunities that await me.
What would a decision against DACA+/DAPA mean for your life?
It would be a huge blow to my hopes and dreams. Yet another door slammed shut in my face as I try to attain status in my country through legal and honest means. Regardless of the decision, I will continue to fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants in America. However, my journey will be more difficult with an unfavorable decision, and I will have to struggle through discouragement and despair.
What do you want other Americans to know about what’s it’s like to be undocumented in the U.S.?
For anyone who is unaware of the agony immigrants endure, I can only describe it in this way: We live every day aware that at any moment we could be separated from the people we love the most, and sometimes it simply just happens. Sometimes we are told that we are no longer permitted to see the ones we love because it has been deemed “illegal” and the law is more important than us sharing our time with the ones who love us and who we love in return. I’m not sure where the justice in that is, but I am certain it is absent of humanity.
What is the first thing you’d do if you received DACA+/DAPA?
Thank God for giving me the strength to endure, celebrate with my friends and family and accept one of the many job offers I received after earning an MBA from the University of Maryland.