FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — As the immigration debate roils in Washington, local immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, face a very uncertain future.
Paola Sanchez's journey began when she was 14 years old and her family in Bolivia was struggling to survive.
“The economic situation was getting worse and worse. We had to sell all our belongings in order to eat,” Sanchez explained.
Sanchez was sent to live with extended family in the United States.
She obtained an ID showing she was of legal age to work and worked 40 hours a week at a factory while attending high school. She'd send what little she earned back home.
“I want to feel like it’s been worth it all these years,” she said. “And I say one day I will be able to see them again and I'm still waiting for that day.
"I work 30 hours a weeks, I file my taxes every year, I pay for college, I pay for health insurance, day care and my expenses. DACA recipients don’t qualify for Financial Aid, Welfare, etc. Every two years we pay $495.00 to renew our permit to work and we have to go through biometrics to make sure we haven’t commit any crime. Is sad that I was able to transmit the real struggle"
She still can't travel back to Bolivia.
But in 2013, she and about 200,000 young people like her, called Dreamers, stepped out of the shadows.
The Obama administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Sanchez was granted legal status. She got a social security card and work permit, which has to be renewed every two years.
Now 28, she's been full steam ahead working, caring for her son Santiago, and attending Massachusetts Bay Community College in Framingham.
Last semester, she made dean's list.
“I hope one day I can have my residency and I can become a citizen so I can contribute more to this country,” she said. “I can feel like I belong here."
But that goal is on hold now that the Trump administration said it was scrapping the DACA program unless it survives a larger immigration deal.
The future of so many has become a political football being tossed around by both sides on Capitol Hill.
“Once you come out of the shadows, you don't want to go back there,” Sanhcez said. “I'm fighting for what I think I earned."
In September, a group of attorneys general from 15 states, including Massachusetts sued to stop the administration from ending DACA.
Sanchez wants to educate people as to how DACA really works.
A federal court ruled that renewals should continue until that case is decided.
Many hope congress -- not the courts -- will come up with permanent solution.
Cox Media Group