For Wilder nursing student, Trump policy on DACA brings uncertainty


By Olivia Weitz, Originally pubilshed in the Idaho Press-Tribune. Reposted with permission.

[Editor's note: The subject of this story has participated in United Methodist Congregations. When contacted about this story she shared, "I would just like to add that the reason I am the woman I am today is thanks to the UMC. They have nurtured me and taught me how to be courageous and overall to always put God first in everything we do. The UMC has taught me to carry my cross like Jesus Christ did. I don't care what happens to me because I know God is with me. But I do care about the innocent people that are scared and are struggling to find God in all this."]

Yuni Rueda
(Photo by Chris Bronson, Idaho Press-Tribune)

WILDER — Like many college students, Yuni Rueda splits her time between the classroom and the job that enables her to pay tuition and cover the costs of food, rent and other expenses.

But these days, Rueda is worrying about more than her GPA, making financial ends meet and her job as a certified nursing assistant. The 19-year-old, who grew up in Wilder and graduated from high school there last year, is not a legal citizen.

So for her, there is the added concern that she could wake up one morning to learn that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the executive order signed by President Obama in 2012 to protect those who entered the country before the age of 16 — will be declared null and void by President Trump.

Rueda believes her anxiety is not unfounded. In last year’s campaign, Trump vowed to eliminate the DACA program as part of his broader plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. That stance on DACA appears to have softened in recent weeks as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters recently that the DREAMERS program would be managed in a “humane way.”

For Rueda and other DACA beneficiaries, elimination of the program could mean being sent back to Mexico, away from her family and the place she’s called home since she arrived here in Canyon County when she was just one-year-old.

“Who know’s what’s going to happen,” said Rueda, who became emotional and teary last week when asked to talk about the potential elimination of DACA. “If they do take DACA away, we would work until God forbid they tell us we have to leave.”

But some leaders in Congress are looking for alternative solutions for dealing with those registered under DACA, which in Idaho includes more than 3,000 by some estimates. Last month, Senators and Representatives from both parties introduced the BRIDGE ACT, which would allow those who received a temporary work permit and deportation relief through DACA to continue living in the United States for three years.

The proposed legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and in the House with the support of Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Co., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. The lawmakers say the bill would provide protection for the 750,000 DACA recipients across the United States to remain here for the next three years, a period they believe is enough to give leaders time to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Members of Idaho’s congressional delegation could not be reached on Friday to comment on whether they support the BRIDGE Act, and so far House and Senate leadership have yet to signal support for the measure.
But the proposal has earned the backing of Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., who represents a district in eastern Washington heavily reliant on agriculture.
“These children and young adults deserve stability here in the U.S. while Congress comes together on long-term immigration reform to provide a permanent solution for them, secure our borders, and build a reasonable and accessible immigration system going forward,” Newhouse wrote in a press release.
Proponents of the BRIDGE Act, including FWD.us., a coalition backed by the technology industry that supports a comprehensive legislative fix to immigration, say there are economic and moral reasons for providing temporary protection to DACA registrants like Rueda.

Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant working with FWD.us, said DACA registrants tend to be better educated, are working in higher paid jobs and have avoided legal troubles. He said 6 percent of DACA registrants own businesses or work in professions like nursing or teaching.

“With a stroke of a pen (eliminating DACA), ... would not just on a moral level but on an economic level, have huge consequences,” Walsh said in an interview Friday. “These are people who were brought here, not of their own doing, and they’ve been living in this country. The idea that we would punish them ... and send them back to a country they don’t know isn’t right.”

Research by the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, determined that the average DACA registrant is similar in many ways to Rueda, educated, hard working and contributing to the economy and the community around them. More specifically, the research by Cato showed the average DACA beneficiary is 22 years old and makes $17 per hour. Walsh said 6 percent of DACA registrants own their own businesses, many of which employ native Americans.

Comparing recipients to an immigration program, the H-1B visa program, Cato researcher estimates that deporting 750,000 DACA recipients would cost the federal government $60 billion, leading to a reduction of $280 billion in economic growth over the next 10 years.

But those hoping the Trump administration will take a harder line on immigration are urging Republicans not to support the BRIDGE Act.

In an interview in the Washington Post last month, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for curbing all forms of immigration, said he worries the legislation will lead to an amnesty of sorts for DACA beneficiaries.

“It would be just formalizing the Obama’s amnesty for those individuals without anything else in return,” said Krikorian.

For her part, Rueda said she wanted to speak publicly about her situation in hopes of increasing awareness and showing Idahoans the potential consequences of immigration reform policy. She wants the public to understand how ending a program like DACA could impact her, her family and the dreams she holds for her future in this country.

Rueda is using her DACA status to pursue a career in nursing, first here at the College of Western Idaho. In May, she’ll find out whether she’s been awarded a DREAMERS scholarship, which would provide her with $75,000 toward a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree at Eastern Oregon University.

Rueda said she’s hopeful her family, which includes two younger siblings who were born in the United States, will be able to stay in Wilder and that one day she will become a nurse, a career she was motivated to pursue after seeing her mother suffer from migraines and sclerosis. Her father works in the local dairy industry and her mother operates a taco stand in Wilder.

“Overall, always seeing her suffer when I was younger always hurt me,” Rueda said of her mother. “I wanted to help her in any way I could.”

Olivia Weitz is the Canyon County and city of Caldwell reporter. She can be reached at 465-8107 or oweitz@idahopress.com. Follow @oliviaweitz1