By Janet Hernandez and Andres Macias, NCLR
At the age of four, Nadia Rivera and her parents embarked on a journey familiar to most American immigrants: the search for a better life. As many have done before us, Nadia’s parents arrived in the United States full of dreams for their daughter. They dreamed of opportunities for a better education and a safer place to raise a family.
While in middle school, Nadia learned about the restriction she faced as an undocumented youth.
“I understood that not everyone is treated equally because of their status,” said Nadia. “You learn that you are not legally part of the country, but you feel like you are just like every other American.”
Nadia is now 18 years old and about to graduate from Bartlett High School in Memphis, Tenn. She will attend Christian Brothers University in the fall to pursue a degree in education. None of this would be possible, however, without Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
“Thanks to DACA, I can go to college and be anything I want. I would love to be a history teacher because history has helped me understand who I am,” said Nadia.
Nadia is currently a volunteer at Latino Memphis, an NCLR Affiliate that has supported youth like her. “Thanks to Latino Memphis, I am able to go to college. They have motivated me to be anything I want to be,” she said.
After receiving her work permit and her driver’s license through DACA, Nadia also got a job at a clothing company.
“DACA gave me the power to move around and go to work without having to worry about being deported,” said Nadia. “Now I have a license, auto insurance, and a job to pay for my expenses and save for college.”
It is clear that recipients of deferred action have contributed tremendously to their communities. According to a national survey of 1,402 DACA recipients, approximately 61 percent have obtained a new job since receiving deferred action, and more than half have opened their first bank account. DACA has resulted in greater contributions to the workforce and economic integration.
But now it is time to also implement Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
“[DAPA] is really necessary because parents are the backbone of the family,” said Nadia. “How can they support their children if they don’t know how long they will stay together? If people would look around them, they would see an entire population that is ready to work and ready for DAPA.”
Nadia and the other DACA recipients profiled in this series demonstrate the benefits we all receive when immigrants can fully realize their potential. They highlight the need to move forward with the expansion of DACA and DAPA.