Monica Lazaro moved to the United States when she was 9 years old, but the Honduras native said she lived in the shadows until she received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status as a young adult. “If DACA ends, my dreams will be shattered,” said Lazaro, an MDC alumna who currently works as a research associate at Nova Southeastern University. Lazaro and her family entered the U.S. on tourist visas to escape violence in Honduras; after those visas expired, they remained in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. “Because of DACA, I no longer fear walking in the streets or deportation, a fear that undocumented individuals carry with them every moment of every day.” Lazaro was among the dozens of Miami’s educational, political and business elite that gathered at MDC, Wolfson Campus this fall to reassure undocumented young people in the community that the Magic City has their backs. The event occurred as the long-term future of DACA, an immigration policy that provides work permit eligibility, in-state tuition benefits and deportation protection to young undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children, appeared uncertain. The policy was established under the Obama administration in 2012 and then rescinded in September 2017. “There is nothing more right than for our community here and beyond to stand up, to show up, to speak up, to close arms around our children, who are American in every single way but one: They were not born here,” said Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who himself overstayed his visa as a minor in order to remain in the United States. Florida is home to approximately 50,000 DACA recipients, including hundreds of MDC students. Many current leaders of the Miami community were born outside of the U.S. and can personally relate to the tribulations faced by undocumented individuals today. “To ‘Dreamers’ – you are who we used to be. You are our future,” said Mike Fernandez, the head of the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund and founder of MBF Healthcare Partners. Fernandez immigrated to the United States from Cuba as a child. The term “Dreamers” – often used to describe DACA recipients – originated from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a legislative effort that failed to pass in the U.S. Congress. The DREAM Act would establish conditional residency and, ultimately, a path to citizenship for undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as minors. The DREAM act was reintroduced in the U.S. House and Senate this year. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, an MDC alumna, is one of the sponsors of the House bill. – AP
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