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.
Stephanie Solis, 30
Stephanie works in the tourism industry and came to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was only 3. She learned that she was undocumented when she was 18, and it came as a total shock. Before she understood what her undocumented status meant, she thought that it was a problem that could be “fixed” with a trip to the courthouse or by taking a test.
Solis is exceptionally intelligent and began high school at age 12. She was admitted to UCLA at age 16, but the lack of access to financial aid required her to work three jobs, and take the bus for up to five hours round trip each day to pay for her studies. She had to drop out with only one semester left to graduate.
What would a decision in favor of DACA+/DAPA mean for your life?
DAPA would directly affect my life through my mother. Because my brother was born in the United States, she would be able to apply, and receive temporary safety against deportation and authorization to work. She currently works part-time as a secretary, and she doesn’t have flexibility in terms of her wages and who she works with. She’s never earned much more than $20,000 a year, so this would allow her to find a better job at a place that respects her.
What would a decision against DAPA mean for your life?
It would mean more of the same for me and my family. My mom would say, “things will change in the long run.” She is very involved in the arts in Southern California, and supports local art galleries through volunteering. She’s well known, and even though she isn’t a legal resident, she’s worked hard to become a real community resident.
What do you want other Americans to know about what’s it’s like to be undocumented in the U.S.?
You can have so much self worth, and be an influential person even if you’re undocumented. Most people don’t know that my mom is undocumented, but everyone knows her as this fascinating woman who makes her small town cool.
What is the first thing you’d do if your mom received DAPA?
I would sit down with my mom in person and talk about what she wants to achieve with her job. She knows that she can do better for herself, and I’ll help her.