Jessica Ramirez has lived in the United States more than half her life, coming to Fort Worth from Mexico City with her family at the age of 14.
But it wasn’t until four years ago, when she enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, that Ramirez, now 31, finally felt comfortable here.
“It gave me the courage to come out, like today,” Ramirez said Tuesday during a Fort Worth protest with other DACA supporters after President Donald Trump announced that the program for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally would be rescinded. “Before, a lot of us were afraid to come out. But for me, [DACA] gave me the security to come out and say, ‘We are here and we want to do nothing but contribute to the country.’ ”
Ramirez was one of about 30 people who had gathered at U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s Fort Worth office, hoping to inform the lawmaker of their concerns over the DACA rollback.
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A program created by President Barack Obama, DACA allows young immigrants who were brought to the country without legal status to gain work permits and driver’s licenses.
Earlier Tuesday, Granger said that “now is the time for Congress to work together to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution.”
The protesters congregated on the sidewalk along University Drive before marching through the parking lot and into the office building, but Granger’s staff was gone for the day.
So they marched back into the parking lot, shouting, ‘Down with deportation! Up with education!”
Ramirez — who is one of an estimated 124,300 Texas residents, including 7,700 in Tarrant County, who have been enrolled in DACA, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Migration Policy Institute — has two young daughters, ages 8 and 3.
She said she’s a stay-at-home mother but has attended classes at Tarrant County College and hopes to return to school soon. She wants to obtain a degree in psychology.
Now, she’s unsure if she’ll get that chance.
Her DACA license, which has to be renewed every two years, expires in December. She applied for renewal in March and paid the $495 fee, she said, but she hasn’t heard a response.
With the plan to end DACA, she wonders if she ever will.
“I just think it is very unfair that people think we are not worthy of being here,” Ramirez said. “Because we are. A lot of us love this country, love it like we were born here. It’s our home.”
Another DACA recipient at the protest Tuesday was Carlos, a University of Texas at Arlington student who asked that his last name be withheld out of fears that immigration officials would identify him.
Carlos, now 23 and a senior advertising major on track to graduate in December, moved to Fort Worth from the Mexico City area in 2003.
“We couldn’t afford the visa application,” he said. “We didn’t have the time. I haven’t seen my birth certificate ever since. We dropped everything we had and just rolled the dice.”
He enrolled in DACA four years ago when he began college. DACA, he said, gave him the security that he could attend school without fear of deportation — and then be able to use his degree after he graduates.
“That means pretty much that all the hard work that I spent for the past [four years] is going to go into the trash, essentially,” he said. “My plans are kind of canceled.”
Papi Salgado, 20, was at the protest in support of her two sisters, ages 23 and 26. Both are in the DACA program but were afraid to attend a public rally Tuesday.
Salgado said one of her sisters is working to save up money to attend college, where she hopes to major in computer science.
“She’s devastated right now,” Salgado said. “All her dreams trashed at the moment.”