GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – President Donald Trump has decided to end the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or DACA program which shielded an estimated 800-thousand people from deportation if they were brought to America illegally as children.
On Tuesday, people gathered at the Peace Center in downtown Greenville for a vigil for DREAMers and to push elected officials to support the DREAM Act, which paves the way to citizenship for immigrant children.
Sarai Bautista is one of those 800,000 people.
“I was a victim of sexual abuse when I was younger, and one of the reasons that it became so urgent for us to leave was to pave a new way for me,” Bautista said.
Bautista moved to Easley from Mexico when she was 11-years-old.
“We aren’t just numbers,” Bautista said. “We’re people with real struggles who are trying to make this country that we love better.”
Bautista, who’s a DACA recipient, is a student at Greenville Tech. She graduated Easley High School in 2009 but had to wait five years when President Obama enacted DACA to be able to attend college.
“I graduated high school and got to see people who had all these opportunities in front of them to go to college and to pursue higher education and not take them, and I graduated with honors,” Bautista said.
She now attends Greenville Technical College, pays out of state tuition, and takes one to two classes a semester because of financial reasons.
However with the announcement Tuesday, she’s concerned about her future.
“It’s really hard for me to see myself having all of that stripped away in the future,” Bautista said. “It’s surreal.”
She says the DACA program helps the government.
“DACA allows undocumented immigrants to come forth and be accountable for their presence here, so that includes paying into social security, paying Medicaid, paying federal taxes,” Bautista said.
Greenville Tech has anywhere from 50 to 200 DACA students at a time. With the announcement, they’re trying to figure out what it will mean for them as an institution.
“It could affect our ability to open the doors for students…Being on top of the changes, understanding the regulations as they come down, and communicating that to our DACA students and then supporting them,” Dr. Matteel Jones, the Vice President for Student Services at Greenville Tech said.
South Carolina’s Attorney General, Alan Wilson was one of ten attorney generals who gave the president a deadline before they threatened to sue the government over DACA.
“This is a victory for the rule of law and the Constitution,” Wilson said.
Bautista doesn’t see it that way. She wants to finish her degree and is now setting her sights on the Dream Act.
“My goal is citizenship, to not have any limits,” Bautista said.
Senator Lindsey Graham also released a statement saying he supports the president’s decision but will work to find a bi-partisan replacement.
The vigil will be held from 7 to 8:30 at the Peace Center.