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Migrant Nation

New policy lets DREAM Act students work, avoid deportation

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

To get through college, Canizales worked every odd job she could — babysitting, dog walking, bookkeeping, anything, since she couldn't work legally. “All the side jobs that you can imagine, and that was just to keep myself eating and in school, being able to purchase my books,” she said. Canizales paid for college with a hodgepodge of grants and scholarships, applying for everything she could. She'd enter essay and poetry contests, hoping for an extra $100 here and there to help pay the bills.

It's expected that as many as 800,000 immigrants like Canizales could avoid deportation, get state IDs, drivers licenses, and work permits under Obama's new measure.

Getting to this point has been a long battle for DREAMers like Pamela Resendiz. Resendiz, brought from Mexico City to the U.S. by her parents at age 9, was detained by immigration authorities and threatened with deportation after being arrested in Austin two years ago (police accused her of blocking a road during South by Southwest). With her deportation eventually stalled, she still couldn't work in the U.S.

Resendiz was one of a dozen UTSA students who launched a hunger strike in late 2010 as the DREAM Act was up for a vote, urging U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to throw support behind the bill (Hutchison, viewed as a swing vote, voted with the majority of her party to knock down the DREAM Act.) “Now, my fellow DREAMers can go to bed and not think that they might get deported at any minute,” she said. “We can move freely, get licenses, not have to take an hour and a half bus trip to get 15 minutes across town.”

DREAM Activists like Resendiz and Canizales, organizers with the San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement, say they hope to refocus efforts away from constant deportation watch (they say DREAMers, through the Education Not Deportation campaign, have protested and lobbied officials out of deporting some 200 undocumented students) and onto pushing for full DREAM Act passage, organizing, and backing political candidates committed to comprehensive immigration reform.

Most of all, though, Canizales says she can start to plan for the future. “Now DREAMers like me can be like, 'Oh, in a year, I want to be here, I want to be doing this,' as opposed to just worrying about when you might be detained,” she said. “Now we're allowed to have plans.”

If you're an undocumented student trying to figure out what the policy change means for you, try these websites:

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