my name, are they going to come take me and my family."
Barriers include cost
Johana De Leon, whose parents emigrated from Mexico's Coahuila state 13 years ago, described her hesitancy to apply as less rooted in fear than in principle.
"I feet like DACA just reinforces stereotypes of good immigrants and bad immigrants," the 22-year-old said. "My parents made the sacrifices that helped me become a 'good immigrant.' It didn't feel right to do this, when there is nothing yet for them."
Other potentially eligible youths cite cost as a barrier. With the application alone costing $465 before attorney's fees are included, the price tag alone delayed 20-year-old Jessica Yanez's decision to pursue deferred action until she could save up enough money through working $7-an-hour shifts as a baby sitter.
"I feel so blessed," she said Thursday, while showing off the work authorization card she received in the mail last week. "I prayed about it. I said, 'God, please make this happen.'"
But Yanez acknowledged that for families like hers with multiple undocumented children, the costs quickly add up. That burden is only magnified in the comprehensive immigration reform bill approved Thursday in the U.S. Senate.
That measure would offer a 13-year pathway to citizenship for many of the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants and a five-year fast track for those who meet the criteria of the current deferred action program.
Those who sign up would be required to pay thousands of dollars in fees, under the current proposal.
And if the cheaper price of deferred action application already has proven too steep for many, the high cost proposed for citizenship may bar many from access, advocates worry.
Out of shadows
But Carlos Aguilar, who moved at 14 from Guanajuato with his mother and siblings, believes that given the chance, most immigrants will opt to pursue legal status, no matter the cost.
"I've talked to a lot who say if they could just buy their citizenship, they would find a way to do it," he said. "For a lot of people, it's not about the money. It's about a chance at a job and the security for your family."
Now 22 and working as a clerk at an immigration law firm in San Antonio, Aguilar's deferred action approval has changed more than just his employment status, he said.
It has emboldened him from his days growing up in conservative Kerrville, where he was often too nervous about his status to even talk to teachers. Now, he's eager to talk about his life here without legal residency.
Working with clients preparing paperwork for their own immigration cases, he said he now aspires to pursue immigration law or a graduate degree in psychology, to counsel children of deported undocumented parents.
Others echoed his new ambitions.
"Sometimes, I thought there was no reason to do well and go to college if I couldn't get a job afterward," said Michelle Mancha, 17.
But since applying for deferred action, she has enrolled at San Antonio College to study biology and begun looking for jobs to help pay her tuition.
Alquicira, the medical student, also has dedicated himself to his studies with new vigor. Earlier this year, he joined hospital rotations in the Rio Grande Valley, a part of the state he never dared travel before thanks to border checkpoints.
For Yanez, though, deferred action has brought more than a chance at a career.
She reluctantly came to San Antonio in 2002 with her brother after the death of a younger sibling in Mexico. At the time, she recalled, it felt like they had only exchanged their grief with a new set of overwhelming problems.
But as she looked toward the future during an interview Thursday, the 20-year-old could not stop herself from beaming.
"I've grown used to this life now," she said. "I have so many dreams I want to accomplish here."
(c)2013 the San Antonio Express-News
Visit the San Antonio Express-News at www.mysanantonio.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Most Popular Stories
- Boehner Lashes Out Against Ted Cruz, Far Right
- TFA Recruiting DACA Recipients
- Hawaii Official Who Release Obama Certificate Only Victim of Plane Crash
- Holiday Shopping Off to a Slow Start This Season
- Ford Plans New Cars, Jobs in 2014
- Gold, Silver Slide on Prospects of Fed Exit
- 'Rape Insurance' Bill Passes in Michigan
- Ted Cruz Coloring Book Selling Briskly
- Kim Jong Un's Uncle Executed
- Grizzly Bears Could Be Taken Off Endangered List