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DREAMER STORY

Yarely Computer Scientist & Dreamer

DREAMER STORY

Yarely Computer Scientist & Dreamer

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“Come on, mamita!” Yarely, 25, cheers. She watches her younger sister, Aileen, race up and down the field. Yarely, her parents, her other two siblings, and Yarely’s boyfriend set up blankets and chairs along the sidelines, buy ice cream from the nearby paletería and chat with other families. As she often does on Sundays, Yarely is spending the day with her family. Together they attend church, cook a meal at home, and encourage Aileen at her weekly soccer game. She is close with her tight-knit family, and remembers her own days playing soccer and growing up here in the Salinas Valley, California.

A DACA recipient, Yarely is the first in her family to pursue higher education and earn a college degree. She is now a software engineer with a San Francisco based tech company, and in her spare time runs a nonprofit in her community for women interested in web and software development. She’s able to work from her home in the Salinas Valley, however, which allows her to live near her family. Without DACA, Yarely could not go to school, work or even drive legally in the U.S. She reflects on what losing her DACA status would mean: “The end of DACA would change my life drastically. It would not only affect me, but create a ripple effect starting from me, to my family, my community, and my country. I would no longer be able to contribute to the economy, support my family, and give back to my community.”

The end of DACA would change my life drastically.”

When she was younger, Yarely picked strawberries in the fields near her hometown. Many from her community find work in the agricultural industry, including both of her parents. Her mom and dad regularly work for 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, to support Yarely and her siblings as they pursue their educations. “My family has impacted every aspect of my life. Thanks to my parents’ hard work, I was able to focus on school,” she says. “I grew up in an environment where my parents were motivated, honest, and hardworking. Thanks to my parents I learned that the government can take my legal status, but they will never take my knowledge.”

My family has impacted every aspect of my life. Thanks to my parents’ hard work, I was able to focus on school.”

In November 2018, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling that blocked the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel, maintained a nationwide injunction blocking the White House from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama-era program has protected about 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, including 200,000 in California.

The uncertainty of her status and the DACA program continue to worry Yarely: “I don’t have a clear idea of what my future will look like. It’s frustrating that someone who doesn’t know me can change my life so drastically.” These concerns are magnified when Yarely considers the potential impact to her family: “I contribute to my family’s expenses, my sister and I are protected under DACA, and if DACA is removed we won’t be able to continue working.”

Being an immigrant in this country feels like I need to prove to everyone why I deserve to be here, that my actions don’t speak for themselves.”

Yarely’s family is also mixed-status. The recent fluctuations in immigration policies mean that family members can easily have different legal statuses depending on when they arrived in the U.S. One of the consequences has been the detention and separation of immigrant families in greater numbers. “Being an immigrant in this country feels like I need to prove to everyone why I deserve to be here, that my actions don’t speak for themselves,” Yarely says. “I have to prove to everyone that we are not criminals, we are humans trying to establish a living in the only country we know as home.”

The immigration system is not working, we are in an immigration limbo, where we don’t know what our future will look like.”

Her family is hardly alone. There are approximately 16 million people across the U.S. in mixed-status families, and this population faces increasing challenges with the immigration system. Without a broad comprehensive immigration reform program in the last thirty years, families have been left in legal limbo. Decades ago, many immigrants arrived as lawful permanent residents or with some form of visa. Others were able to achieve legal status once they arrived through, for example, the legalization provisions in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. But in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, there have been fewer opportunities for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status.

I also feel responsible to help my community and encourage more Latinos to join the tech industry. I am creating a path for others like me to follow.”

“The immigration system is not working, we are in an immigration limbo, where we don’t know what our future will look like,” Yarely says. The ruling from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest in a string of favorable court decisions, and means that DACA protections will stay in effect, for now. However, legislation to extend protections for DACA recipients failed in Congress in 2018. If Congress does not act to protect DACA, it will imperil the lives of more than 700,000 young people like Yarely, as well as their families and communities.

As the request of the Justice Department, the U.S. Supreme Court could be next to weigh in on the fate of DACA. There has been no final decision that determines DACA’s status, and depending on how higher courts rule in the coming months, the injunctions protecting Dreamers could disappear for good.

Yarely is hopeful that lawmakers will pass legislation to help Dreamers in the future: “I want to make my parents proud and prove to my sisters that with dedication and determination they can accomplish anything. I also feel responsible to help my community and encourage more Latinos to join the tech industry. I’m creating a path for others like me to follow. Dreamers are an asset to this country, we give back to our community and help the economy. It’s time to protect all Dreamers once and for all.”