Maria Lopez is a 17-year-old with an almost perfect GPA. She’s involved with after-school clubs and community organizations. She attends a top Dallas ISD magnet high school and is likely an ideal candidate for some elite universities.
By Obed Manuel
But Lopez is an unauthorized immigrant.
And she’s not one of the almost 700,000 Dreamers shielded from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created under President Barack Obama.
Instead she’s among a new generation of possibly more than 250,000 kids around the country who were too young or never made initial requests for DACA before President Donald Trump tried to rescind the program. They now face a life of being stuck in the shadows, unable to legally work or live normal lives.
Lopez said she fears that missing out on DACA will make her a more likely target for deportation when she turns 18 and that she’ll be unable to start her adult life.
“DACA to me meant opportunity. It would’ve opened a lot of doors to be normal and live a regular life,” Lopez said. “It did mean hope. It meant I would’ve been able to help my mom.”
She can still go to college and pay in-state tuition in Texas, but without any kind of legal status Lopez will continue missing out on work opportunities.
A few weeks ago, Lopez tried applying to the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program, an effort that places high school juniors and sophomores at companies and nonprofits around Dallas for paid summer internships.
But the program requires students to provide a Social Security number and to have work authorization.
Lopez didn’t apply for DACA because she couldn’t pay the $495 application fee or other legal fees. After Trump’s election, some lawyers she consulted told her to hold off, as no one knew what DACA’s fate would be.