The future of DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, government program is on the line after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it illegal.
As the program makes its way through the court system, some worry this could be the end of DACA altogether.
ABC57’s Annie Kate sat down with one of the recipients of the DACA program, known as a “dreamer,” who is gearing up to travel to Washington D.C. next week and make a statement to congress.
Marlen Ortiz came to America when she was just twelve years old, not even a teenager.
“You saw those kids in cages? That was not new to me. I was one of those kids,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz grew up in Mexico. Her siblings were able to come to America because their father is a U.S. citizen, but her biological father is not. So, Ortiz stayed behind with her mother.
She said when her mother got sick, she hatched a plan to get help and reunite the family.
“I got to go get my brother and my sister back,” she said.
But what started as an innocent plan to help her mother, quickly became something dangerous.
“‘Hey, I need to get to the U.S.,'” Ortiz remembered. “And then, it happened to be a smuggler… he saw my innocence… I remember that we went to a security house and there was people with big guns like this. And I knew at that moment that my life was in danger.”
“The second time,” she continued, “I ended up in a facility in a security house with the smugglers. And in this place, there was horror. It was hell on earth. And then, there was this guy that approached me and said ‘here’s the phone,’ he took the gun out and put it on my face and said ‘you need to call your brother and your sister and you’re going to tell them to pay this amount of money by this time otherwise, say goodbye to your family.'”
Once in the country, though, her mother told her to stay there.
“My mom was like, ‘nope, she’s not coming back. You’ve got to keep her there. Because she’ll be better there,'” she said.
Ortiz eventually settled in South Bend, where she has worked and paid taxes now for more than 15 years.
“I believe that deportation should not be an option at this point,” she said. “Like I said, a lot of us were brought here when we were very young. We are American in every single way. It’s just that we have a different piece of paper that says ‘work permit’ instead of ‘residency’ or ‘citizenship.'”
She even considered serving in the armed forces.
“I really wanted to serve and actually go to the us marines. That was actually one of the dreams that I had,” she said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fill that dream because of my status.”
In 2012, she became what’s known as a “dreamer,” or a member of the DACA program, so she was able to get a driver’s license and social security number.
“It gave me an identity in the U.S. It gave me a voice, because sometimes I felt like I didn’t have that,” she said.
She’s gearing up to appeal to members of congress, now that the fate of the DACA program is in the hands of the federal court system.
“I would love members of congress to come up with a solution,” she said. “All we want is a piece of paper that will allow us to reside here permanently, that’s the first thing, which will allow us to continue to work, contribute to the country, support our families, and let us travel, back and forth.”
For Ortiz, restoring DACA means stability for her son.
“It’s not just about me. It’s also about my family that also contributes to this country that are also U.S. citizens,” she said.
On Wednesday, Ortiz is among 90 dreamers going to Capitol Hill to advocate that members of congress pass legislation guaranteeing legal status for nearly 600,000 DACA recipients, and 400,000 others who are eligible.