Another door was shut for close to five million undocumented immigrants who were waiting for a solution to their migration “limbo.” They will continue living and working with the fear of deportation and separation from their families.
rnThe Supreme Court’s 4-4 decision effectively denied the possibility of getting a temporary legalization under President Barack Obama’s executive action. Carmen López is one of the millions of immigrants who would have benefited from DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans).
rnLópez arrived in California in 1989 from Puebla, Mexico. She worked long hours and studied at Cal State Northridge. After living in the United States for several years, her daughter was born, a U.S. citizen. The single mother finished her B.A. in liberal studies with an emphasis in education and later earned a certificate as a translator. But López still has not obtained legal status.
rn“I cried tears of joy the day President Obama announced the DAPA and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) executive actions. While it wasn’t something permanent, “it was a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
rn“A few days ago I received the bad news on my cell phone that nothing will come of it. It was a tremendous disappointment, because I had hope that perhaps some of the court magistrates who were not in favor of it would change their minds, that they might find a humanitarian perspective and would realize that millions of persons who don’t have their paperwork are suffering. But they’re disconnected from that suffering,” López said.
rnLooking for legal status has been a constant part of her life. A few years after she arrived, López’ employer offered her a way to obtain legal status. She hired a lawyer to begin the process, but poor practice ruined her case and López was unable to obtain even a temporary worker permit. She lost a lot of money in the process.
rn“Before the law changed, if you were a resident of California you could go to a community college or a university and pay as a resident, which is more affordable than paying as a foreigner,” she said. “While I had good grades, I wasn’t eligible for any grants for books or other expenses because I was undocumented.”
rnShe worked full-time at a private preschool and took classes designed for working adults, studying nights and weekends while she raised her daughter. Her education and certificates have led to job offers she cannot take because of her legal status. Today, she works part-time for $10 an hour.
rn“Nowadays, the opportunities for obtaining legal status are few,” she said, “but many believe we haven’t obtained legal status because we are lazy or ignorant.”
rnThere is a lot of misinformation out there, she said, and many don’t realize what the process entails.
rn“Once, someone told me to just go to the DMV to obtain my permanent legal status,” she recalled. For undocumented persons currently in the U.S., the only possible legalization options are: marriage to a U.S. citizen or legal resident (which is not guaranteed and is fraught with obstacles in most cases); work visas, which are very limited; or a family petition.
rnLópez said none of those options are available to her.
rn“Almost my entire family lives here,” she said. “Some have legal residency, but if they petition for me it will take at least 20 years to receive legal status. In the early 1990s, since I already had a case pending with immigration through work, I took my lawyer’s advice and didn’t submit a petition through the means of my family.”
rnLópez explained that she has spent half of her life in this country and has raised her only daughter here.
rn“For many of us, the only option is for there to be immigration reform that would allow us to obtain legal residency or a work permit,” she said. “Most of us are working people that want to offer our children a better life without the fear of one day being deported.”
rnHer faith has maintained her through the challenges, she said.
rn“I have a lot of faith in God and I know he will never leave me. Even though the situation is difficult, even though one doesn’t understand why things happen, he takes care of us. I know I could be making more money if I had legal status, yet my daughter and I have never gone without. God provides for us.”
rnShe hopes things will change in the future and that Congress will support immigrants in her situation.
rn“There needs to be a change for there to be a reform,” she said, both with sadness and hope. While she isn’t giving up, she fears that she might one day be separated from her daughter.