Chasing the American dream: Future on hold for one Steamboat Springs High School senior
September 24, 2017
Many Steamboat Springs High School seniors have already marked graduation day on their calendars, looking forward to college and to finding the road to a promising future.
But for at least one senior, the future is on hold, held in the balance by politicians thousands of miles away debating immigration policy in Washington, D.C.
"I felt really upset, a little angry, if I'm honest, because my future is technically in his hands and I have no control over it," the young woman said of the Trump administration's announcement earlier this month that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, would be phased out over the next six months.
The girl chose not to use her name because of her family's fears for her safety or that they might be deported.
For many the decision means that when their permits expire they will be forced to leave the United States, but for this girl it also means that she has to reconsider her plans for college.
"We are hosting a financial aid night on Oct. 4 here, and we don't know what to say to these students right now. We don't have clear direction of what it is," said Danica Moss, a college counselor at Steamboat Springs High School. "We know that some schools are more generous to our DACA students as far as offering them in-state tuition and that kind of stuff. Colorado Mountain College is fantastic and CU Boulder is great, but we really don't have a ton of guidance or direction because it's all up in the air."
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A few weeks ago, the young DACA applicant said she had started to look at colleges and was eager to start applying as soon as she heard if she had been accepted into the program. But for now her plans are on hold for a six-month window that has been left the door open for law makers to address the DACA issue. Now, Congress will have the final say on an issue that will impact the nearly 800,000 people who are currently enrolled in the DACA program.
"I feel like I want to get my hopes up," the young student said of the chance that Congress will legislate an agreement that will allow her to stay in the United States. "But I don't want to be let down just in case I don't get the outcome that I want."
What she wants more than anything is the chance to go to college, something many of her classmates take for granted.
"Its kind of hard for someone like me to be told that my future isn't going to be as important as someone else's, and nobody deserves to hear that," she said. "I would tell them (Congress) whatever they are going to do to keep that in mind. Because it's not just me they are affecting. There are a lot of other people that deserve the right to a prosperous future here in a country that has the potential to provide that."
For her, the impact may make it impossible for her to go to college, and Moss said the timing could not have been much worse for high school seniors.
"When students arrive at the high school, we start talking about college, right," Moss said. "We tell them you should take this activity or do this because it looks good on your college application. There has kind of been this path of hopes, hopes, hopes, hopes and then it was very deflating. It doesn't mean that it's impossible, but it makes it a lot more difficult."
So while this young woman still dreams of attending college next fall, she is faced with financial challenges that could very well keep her out of a college classroom.
"One way this is going to impact me is the colleges," she said. "I'm a senior in the high school this year and they have a lot of financial aid for DACA students, so it is really going to impact my financial need for colleges. That's all I know."
The girl does not currently hold a DACA work permit but she applied before the announcement earlier this month. She is anticipating that she will be accepted into the program, but if Congress doesn't find a resolution, she and her family face the threat of deportation back to Mexico, and a place she doesn't remember.
"My mom told me, even before I applied for DACA, she told me that with all the threats that Donald Trump is doing — like mass deportation and all that stuff — she said that if that were the case and if we were to get deported there was no way that we were going to be separated. So if she gets deported, or if I get deported, we are all going."
However, the young woman still hopes for a positive outcome, and Moss is hoping that it will come in time for the start of her freshman year of college next fall.
"I'm encouraging these students to continue to pursue college. I'm trying to seed that hope of we don't know and we are watching it in the news," Moss said. " Lets just stay the course and we are not the only ones there are so many voices across the country that are advocating for this. The government has a process and we just have to let it play out."