As DACA recipients, we want to share our stories
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Our immigrant community has been viciously attacked this month, more than usual. From Trump’s introduction of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE) Act with Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDemocrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Chinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' MORE (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), to the fast tracked deportation of two brothers because of one’s admission to college, to the recent pardon of Joe Arpaio, we have been targets of this administration.

As recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, we want to bring forward our stories to change the ongoing rhetoric that immigrants are criminals. Our families brought us to this country for opportunities that weren’t available to us in Mexico and we have since become home owners, entrepreneurs, active community members, and taxpayers.

We want to share out stories.

Luis Alcauter

The DACA program was announced by President Obama on August 15th, 2012. Upon hearing this news, I immediately applied for DACA. Before DACA, I faced multiple barriers while in college, such as not having a bank account since it required a social security number and a government issued form of identification, which I did not have.

Obtaining a driver’s license, a work permit and a social security number are things some people take for granted, but they empowered me. Being able to drive and to work allowed me to apply to jobs I wouldn’t consider before. I felt limitless.

I found myself interning with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in the Capitol. I now work at a consulting firm and have contributed to the successful election of eight Latino candidates to Congress, including two who were formerly undocumented. Hearing their stories brings hope that we are truly in the country of opportunity.

Jessica Rubio

I grew up being told to pursue higher education and go to college, but as an undocumented person, this was a challenge. Before DACA, there were several struggles to obtaining this college education, including having to pay out of state tuition — despite having resided in Arizona for 6 years — not having a driver’s license, and unattainable jobs that paid a living wage. DACA granted me the independence I needed. I could obtain a driver’s license and freely move everywhere I wanted in the country. It also gave me relief when seeing police officers, since I didn’t have to fear deportation just because of a traffic stop.

After my experience as a first-generation student and a community organizer, I came to the conclusion that there was a need for a college readiness program that could empower students to create systematic change in their communities. I created the Academic and Leadership Accelerator for Service (ALAS), a nonprofit that prepares a generation of community leaders with the education and skills needed to make a more inclusive and equitable community.

In 2011, my brother was deported. He would have been eligible for the DREAM Act and had lived in the country for over 5 years. He didn’t have a criminal record, he attended school, and he paid his taxes. The deportations and family separations haven’t stopped. We need immediate action to protect our lives and future in this country.

Juventino Meza

I received DACA and since have used my new status to build a better life. With a work-permit and government issued identification, the possibilities seem endless. I got a job where I could earn enough to become a first-time home buyer, helping to stimulate the U.S. housing market and grow our nation’s economy.

I started law school last year in hopes that one day I get to uphold and defend our constitution. To help others immigrants like me, I helped start a nonprofit in Minnesota that focuses on helping immigrant youth stay in high school and attend college, because more education means more opportunities to give back to our country.

DACA does not grant us with a path to citizenship. Every two years we have to reapply, provide extensive documentation, get fingerprinted, pass a criminal background check and pay a fee. This results in about $1,000 that we have to spend every other year into a system that we don’t financially benefit from. We pay our taxes and contribute to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that we aren’t eligible for. If the 800,000 DACA recipients were to be removed from the country, contributions to these programs would be cut by $24.6 billion over a decade.

DACA has benefitted not just the three of us and 800,000 others, but countless Americans who live, study and work with us every single day. Removing 800,000 people from the workforce will cost $33.4 billion in GDP loss over a decade. Six percentage of DACA recipients of DACA have started their own business and employ U.S. citizens. More than one in ten DACA recipients have purchased their first home. Closer to 55 percent of DACA recipients have purchased a vehicle. These opportunities were all fought for and things that are taken for granted by American citizens.

Furthermore, undocumented immigrants have collectively paid an estimated $11.64 billion in state and local taxes. These people all deserve a pathway to citizenship. If all undocumented immigrants in the United States were granted legal status and were able to work legally, state and local tax contributions would increase annually by an estimated $2.1 billion. Our parents are just as deserving as we are even though they may not have had the chance to pursue a higher education.

We want as many people as possible to have legal protection under a broader immigration reform bill and are disappointed by the continued failures in passing one over the years. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2010, reminded us that we are worth investing in and it empowered our community. The recent news of the revival of the Dream Act reignited the hope that one day there will be a path to citizenship for us.

Jessica Rubio arrived to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 14. She is a DACA recipient and a graduate of Grand Canyon University. She is the founder of the Academic and Leadership Accelerator for service, a nonprofit that prepares high school students for college. Luis Alcauter was born in Mexico and moved with his family to California, where he graduated with a B.A. in Political Science. He currently works at a political consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Juventino Meza is an internationally recognized champion for human rights, a non-profit executive and leader in civic engagement. He is a graduate of Augsburg College and currently attends William Mitchell School of Law.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.