DALLAS — For thousands of young adults, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] provided new opportunities to continue their studies and excel in their careers while being able to visit family in their home countries without the fear of being unable to reenter the United States. 

Sandra Avalos was in her 20s when she applied for DACA and was approved. Now in her 30s, she has established herself as a college graduate and career-driven mother. However, her DACA status is a concern.

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump rescinded the program. The program was reinstated as the legal battles continued over the constitutionality of DACA. Every two years, individuals must renew.

Avalos will have to renew her DACA this year. Her teen will begin high school in the fall. 

As a mom, she is proud to have raised a child who is independent but also wonders if that was in part to ensure they were prepared in case she was unable to stay in the U.S.

“I’ve always told myself that I was striving to have my kid be independent so that they didn’t have that co-dependence on me. I always thought it was because it was a healthy thing to do,” Avalos said. “But I think it was actually a protection for them because if I am to have to leave, like, I will know that they have those basic tools that I left for them to continue being here without me.”

Avalos and 200 individuals went to Washington D.C. during the lame duck session in December to meet with legislators to ask for language in a bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship.

“By Wednesday night, we unfortunately started hearing that they had retracted. They were no longer going to add any kind of verbiage,” Avalos recalled. 

Haim Vasquez, an immigration attorney, explains the shift may be due to the current conversation about immigration.

“There has been talks in the previous weeks with regard to some kind of legalization for Dreamers or DACA holders, these came from both parties, but unfortunately, at this point we haven’t seen any traction,” Vasquez said, “because the issues at the border have shifted the immigration conversation to border security.

In spring 2022, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting DACA renewals online. According to USCIS data, only one new application was approved. Over 94,000 first-time applications are pending as DACA continues to be challenged in the courts.

In December, prior to Avalos going to D.C., Texas and other states filed an injunction.

“They want the federal courts to join, to basically stop, the federal government from issuing any more DACA decisions until there is a final decision on the court based on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision,” Vasquez explained.

A decision has not been made on the future of the program. In 2022, more than 170,000 renewal applications were approved. It is uncertain the exact number of potential first-time DACA beneficiaries.