West Michigan Dreamers worried about future as DACA deadline looms

Posted at 10:20 PM, Jan 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-12 22:20:13-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- As the battle over immigration continues in Washington, many young people in the DACA program here in West Michigan are left worrying about their future. That includes two college students living in Grand Rapids who spend every day not knowing what's going to happen to them.

For Jose Meza and Luis Perez, every day is a waiting game.  Because of DACA, they've been able to go to college and start their own company. But now, they have no idea if or when their lives will change.

Both of the 21-year-old students moved to the United States from Mexico at a young age.  A few years ago, they became part of the DACA program.

"It made life much easier," Meza said. "I am able to drive freely now, work, school; I don't think I'd be in school if it wasn't for DACA."

"We started our own business," Perez said. "We were actually able to use DACA. A Social Security number for all the legal paperwork, getting that job; that's a big help to be able to afford my college education."

The two of them, along with a third friend, started their own company called Loop Coding Center. Their goal is to bring diversity to the science and technology fields.

"We noticed that not many Latinos, not many African American students are going for the tech field," Perez said. "So what we're trying to do are promote more of how technology works and want them to purse a career in computer science or similar fields."

In September, President Donald Trump repealed the DACA program, giving Congress six months to come up with a new plan.

"If they get rid of it, it's going to affect my life," Meza said. "I probably won't be able to work legally here."

"People aren't paying that much attention," Perez said. "They feel that's just okay, go back to your country.  But for us it's a whole thing. We pretty much lived our entire life here."

While the waiting game continues for the fate of many people like Jose and Luis, for now they say they'll continue to do what they do every day.

"We're not here causing any harm," Meza said. "We're trying to do good things for our communities and we're all human."

"We are building things, we are putting things back together, and we are paying taxes," Perez said. "We are getting jobs, so it's not just about okay let's go back and start fresh. It's never easy, and also for the country it's not going to be easy for them to recover after so many people leave."

Both of them say recent actions by President Trump in Washington are only motivating them more.

"We're basically feeding off his ignorance to prove people wrong," Meza said.

Congress has until Jan. 19 to come up with a plan for the future of DACA.