Local “dreamers” face uncertainty after decision to rescind DACA

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. - Jonathan Ortiz and Jose Torres were classmates at Elizabethtown High School.

Both came to the United States from Mexico as the children of undocumented immigrants.

And both are among the 800,000 people who sought protection from deportation through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, when it was established by the Obama administration in 2012.

"It opened doors to get a better job once I graduated, because even if I did end up going to school and I didn't have DACA, I wasn't able to have a job doing what I was going to school for," Ortiz said.

Ortiz, 24, studied architectural design in college, and was able to get a job in his field after his studies.

Torres balances a job as a manager in the poultry industry with going to school at HACC.

"It drains me physically and mentally some days, but I know what I want," Torres, 24, said. "I want to get a better career and I want to achieve, so that's just a sacrifice that we've always been taught to do."

Whether the Dreamers will continue to get that opportunity in some form is now in the hands of Congress, namely Republicans who are divided on how to proceed.

"The leadership in the House and Senate desperately wants to find a fix for this," said Marc Scaringi, managing partner of Scaringi Law and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016. "They have been very supportive of the DREAM Act. It's the base of the Republican Party that has been strongly opposed to it."

Republicans called this a shrewd move by President Trump, since a similar policy for parents had already been struck down by the courts and multiple state attorneys general threatened legal action against DACA. Doing this keeps control in the hands of the executive and legislative branch, Scaringi said.

Ortiz and Torres say they are hopeful Congress comes up with a more permanent solution, but worry about the consequences if it does not happen.

"They don't know anything about their mother country," Ortiz said, referring to his fellow Dreamers. "They really don't. They grew up in the U.S., all they know is the system in the U.S., how everything works within the U.S. If you tend to send those people back, I mean, they're going to be completely lost."

After the initial disappointment of the announcement, Torres said it makes Dreamers want to work even harder to succeed.

"It is motivation, because it makes me want to say 'Okay, if they want to take this opportunity away, I'm going to show them why I deserve this opportunity,'" Torres said.

Until a solution is found, any thoughts about the future are on hold.

"You really can't be able to plan a future," Ortiz said. "You just live in the moment."