When she was 15 years old, Angelica Llanos arrived -- undocumented -- in Norwalk, Connecticut, from Colombia. She lived with her mother and sister, finished high school, studied for two years at Norwalk Community College but had to drop out because she was ineligible for financial aid.
In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program gave Llanos the legal right to stay and work in the U.S. But DACA is a temporary measure that’s faced constant court challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of DACA in June 2020, but it was back in federal court in Texas in December.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “If they’re going to leave it, or if they’re going to tell us to go back to our countries.”
President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to bring a new perspective to U.S. immigration policy. But if the political divide in Congress continues, it could still be hard to enact meaningful immigration reform.
DACA was created to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. when they were children. And it’s been around for a while. Llanos is now 32 and the mother of two U.S. citizen children. She’s waiting this month to find out whether her DACA papers will be renewed.
“It’s so scary. And I’m so scared now waiting. Because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Her immigration lawyer, Alex Meyerovich, said this ongoing uncertainty takes a toll on his clients.
“Some of them are struggling to convince their employers that they’re still eligible for work,” he said. "There’s no predictability and the employers cannot really manage this, because they expose themselves to the liability, so I don’t necessarily see that there is ill will from the employers.”
Llanos works for Norwalk Public Schools assisting teachers with Spanish translation. She said she is not the only person in her situation.
“In my school where I work, three people who do the same job as me, they also have DACA.”
Immigration advocates say what they really need is for the next administration to find a pathway for DACA recipients to transition from this roller-coaster way of life to a more permanent legal status.