DACAmented and Graduated: From Cap and Gown to Business Casual

Lucy Soula is recipient of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a program that allows young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for temporary protection from deportation and a two-year renewable work permit. She is a recent graduate of Florida International University. As thousands of DACA recipients walk across the stage this spring, we asked Lucy to share what her experience has been like six months into post-graduate life and what advice she would share with students graduating at the end of this semester.

How were you feeling approaching graduation?

The biggest reason my parents moved our family to the U.S. from Argentina was so that my sister and I could benefit from a better education. Thus, approaching graduation, I felt elated because my parent’s sacrifice was finally worth it. I did it. WE did it. I couldn’t have made it as far as I did without their love, support, and encouragement. I owe all of my success to them.

What are your goals as a college graduate?

As a college graduate, my goals are to be successful in whatever I do and to be able to support my parents financially so that I can try to repay them for everything they’ve done for my sister and me. Ideally, I’d love to be an immigration lawyer and help the next generation of immigrants succeed in this country. Unfortunately, since there are no in-state tuition waivers for education beyond a bachelor’s degree, and limited scholarships exist for undocumented students who want to attend graduate or professional school, it’s something I must currently put on hold.

How has having DACA helped or hindered your post-college life?

If it wasn’t for DACA, I probably wouldn’t have been able to graduate as quickly as I did. When I first started college, I was paying the international tuition rate (3 times regular tuition) at a community college and taking one or two classes a semester.Thanks to my high school Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate credits, I was able to earn my Associate of Arts degree in two years.When I transferred to Florida International University, I received an email saying that I should apply to TheDream.us scholarship, a scholarship solely for DACA recipients, and that changed my life.

Because of DACA, I qualified for the TheDream.us scholarship, and thus, was able to graduate only one semester behind my peers. In my post-college life, DACA has allowed me to move into my own apartment and buy a car. I now have an ID and a valid social security number – which I’m sure most people take for granted – but it’s not something that is accessible to undocumented immigrants.

DACA has helped me so much from the very second that I received it on Halloween in 2012. DACA has given me a sense of security that I can live without the fear of deportation – and it has allowed me to participate in activities that I couldn’t before with my friends, now that I can legally drive to meet up with them. My various jobs have never given me any problems in regards to DACA, as long as I turned in a copy of my DACA-granted work permit. 

Are there any lessons you've learned since graduating that you would want to share with students who are graduating this spring?

I was so eager to graduate and start my “adult” life that I didn’t finish being a “kid,” although as children of immigrants and/or undocumented parents, we could never really be “just kids.” I jumped straight into the workforce, staying at the agency where I had completed my summer internship prior to my last semester of college. I wish I could have taken a leap year of sorts, to travel, take care of myself after all those stressful (yet rewarding) years of school and just have some ME time. I would say that the moral of the story is to not be in such a hurry to grow up and BE someone that you lose yourself in the process. Take time to take care of yourself and make sure that you’re doing what you want to be doing, not always what you have to be doing.

DACA made it possible for me to graduate from college and enter the workforce, but my story is only one of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients. 95 percent of us are employed or enrolled in school. Not only are we investing everything we have in the United States–our home–but we are contributing economically to this country. Still, DACA is not a permanent solution. We live with the fear that this program could be terminated by this Administration at any moment. This would have disastrous effects for us young people, our families, and the country we call home. American voters across all parties overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers like me. We need Congress to take action.

Visit Dreamers FWD to learn more about Dreamers and the DACA program,  and urge your member of Congress to take action to protect us.      

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