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Phoenix high school senior feeling hopeful after DACA ruling

Diego Acevedo (Courtesy Photo)

PHOENIX — For 17-year-old Diego Acevedo, growing up as an undocumented immigrant has created uncertainty and fear about his future.

He and his family came to Phoenix from Mexico when he was 2 years old to seek medical care after he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

“I never really knew where I was going to be in five years or if I was going to be able to continue my education,” the senior at Brophy College Preparatory said. “There was always that risk that something could go wrong.”

He’s hopeful his future looks a lot brighter thanks to a ruling last week by a federal judge. It orders the Trump administration to begin accepting new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.

The program, which started in 2012 under the Obama administration, gives young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children a chance to stay and work legally.

The Trump administration must also allow DACA recipients to renew benefits under the program, including work permits, for two years instead of one. And it must allow DACA recipients to apply for advance parole, which lets them travel abroad for humanitarian, educational or employment purposes.

Acevedo describes the program as a “safe haven” for him and other so-called dreamers.

“It’s basically granting us that freedom and acceptance that we’ve always been waiting for,” he adds.

If approved, the DACA program will shield Acevedo from deportation and allow him to get a driver’s license.

He said it will also make going out-of-state for college more of a possibility knowing he’d have a driver’s license, which he can use to drive or board a plane.

“So this also gives me the opportunity to open my options and look for different opportunities in different places,” he said about DACA.

The latest data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shows there are about 24,000 DACA recipients living in Arizona.

Phoenix immigration attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado expects that number to increase thanks to the latest ruling.

But he warned there’s still a pending lawsuit in Texas challenging the legality of the DACA program. A hearing is set for Dec. 22 and a ruling could come that same day or soon after.

Maldonado said he’s not too worried, saying President-elect Joe Biden could implement a similar program if the Texas lawsuit shuts down the current one. For now, he’s encouraging people to apply for DACA.

“I’m confident telling people now’s the time to get your documents together, get the application filled out and get it sent out,” Maldonado said in a video he posted to Facebook.

Acevedo said he and his sister, who’s a year older and a freshman in college, are getting ready to apply for DACA. He said they were both under the age of 15, which is needed to qualify, when the program stopped taking new applications in 2017.

“We’ve been preparing for this moment for a very long time,” he said.

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