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Young Lives on Hold

Every year, thousands of people from other countries bring their children to the United States illegally. For many of these immigrant kids, the U.S. is the only home they’ve ever known. What will their future look like? 

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

A Rally for Immigrants
These people support a rule called DACA. It helps undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as kids.

    Fernanda Jimenez came to the United States when she was 5 years old. Her mother brought her here from Mexico with her older brother and sister. They didn’t have legal permission to be in the U.S. But her parents wanted better jobs than they could find at home. They wanted better schools. Most of all, they wanted a better future for their kids.

    Fernanda made the most of it. She taught herself English by reading books and watching cartoons. She studied hard. By the age of 10, she knew what she wanted from life. “I’m going to college no matter what,” she would tell her mother.

    Fernanda knew she wasn’t living in the United States legally. But she convinced herself it didn’t matter. “I pretended I was just like the other students,” she says.

    In high school, she couldn’t pretend anymore. Her friends started to get driver’s licenses and jobs. Fernanda couldn’t do either. And without a good job, how could she pay for college? Her dream began to feel out of reach.

    Fernanda Jimenez came to the U.S. when she was 5. Her mother brought her from Mexico. Fernanda’s older brother and sister came too. The family didn’t have a legal right to be in the U.S. But her parents wanted better jobs and schools. They wanted a better future for their kids.

    Fernanda did her best. She learned English from books and cartoons.

    She studied hard. By age 10, she knew what she wanted. “I’m going to college no matter what,” she told her mother.

    Fernanda knew she was in the U.S. illegally. She told herself it didn’t matter. “I pretended I was just like the other students,” she says.

    In high school, things changed. Her friends got driver’s licenses and jobs. Fernanda couldn’t do either. She needed a good job to pay for college. Her dream began to feel far away.

    Fernanda Jimenez came to the United States when she was 5 years old. She was brought here by her mother from Mexico, along with her older brother and sister. The family didn’t have legal permission to be in the U.S., but her parents wanted better jobs than they could find at home. They also wished for better schools, and above all, they hoped for a better future for their children.

    Fernanda made the most of her opportunities. She taught herself English by reading books and watching cartoons. She studied hard and, by the age of 10, knew what she wanted from life. “I’m going to college no matter what,” she would tell her mother.

    Fernanda was aware that she wasn’t living in the United States legally, but she convinced herself it didn’t matter. “I pretended I was just like the other students,” she recalls.

    In high school, she couldn’t pretend anymore. Her friends started to get driver’s licenses and jobs, but Fernanda couldn’t do either. And without a good job, how could she pay for college? Her dream began to feel out of reach.

A Nation of Immigrants

    Today, more than 40 million immigrants live in the U.S. legally. That means they have permission from the American government to be here. Most immigrants are allowed to come to the U.S. because they have close family members living here already. 

    But the U.S. limits the number of people who can immigrate legally every year. That’s why about 11 million people face a problem similar to Fernanda’s. They are living in the U.S. without permission from the government. They are known as undocumented immigrants. They don’t have documents—or papers—giving them permission to live here.

    More than 40 million immigrants live in the U.S. legally. That means the government allows them to be here. Most immigrants can come because they have close family members already here.

    But the U.S. limits how many people can immigrate. That’s why 11 million people face a problem. Fernanda has this problem too. They don’t have the right to live here.

    These people are called undocumented immigrants. They don’t have documents (papers) that say they can live here.

    Today, more than 40 million immigrants reside in the U.S. legally, which means that they have been given permission by the American government to be here. Most immigrants are allowed to come to the U.S. because they have close family members already living here.

    However, the U.S. limits the number of people who can immigrate legally every year. That’s why approximately 11 million people face a problem similar to Fernanda’s: They’re living in the U.S. without permission from the government. These people are known as undocumented immigrants, which means they don’t have documents—or papers—giving them permission to live here.

Courtesy of Jimenez Family

All Grown Up
Fernanda Jimenez is now a high school senior in Wisconsin. She is protected by DACA. Her mother brought her to the United States at age 5—when she had no say in the decision.  The photo of her and her grandfather (far right) was taken the day before she left Mexico for the U.S.

Living on the Edge

    Life is uncertain for most undocumented immigrants. Kids can go to school. But as teens, they can’t get a driver’s license. Undocumented students can apply to most colleges. But financial aid is almost impossible to get. Undocumented immigrants find ways to work—and some of them even pay taxes. But few high-paying jobs are available to them.

    Many Americans think undocumented immigrants should be forced to leave the country. In fact, each year, more than 300,000 people are deported. 

    But what about people like Fernanda? She didn’t decide to come here on her own. She and many others were brought here as children by their undocumented parents. Should they be forced to leave too?

    Life is hard for most undocumented immigrants. Kids can go to school. But teens can’t get driver’s licenses. Undocumented students can apply to most colleges. But it’s very hard for them to get financial aid.

    These immigrants find ways to work. Some pay taxes. But they often can’t get high-paying jobs. 

    Many Americans think undocumented immigrants should leave. More than 300,000 people are deported each year.

    But what about people like Fernanda? She did not come here on her own. She and many others were brought here as kids by their parents. Should they have to leave too?

    Life is uncertain for most undocumented immigrants. Kids can attend school, but as teenagers, they’re unable to get a driver’s license. Undocumented students can apply to most colleges, but financial aid is practically impossible to get. Undocumented immigrants figure out ways to work, and some of them even pay taxes—but few high-paying jobs are available to them.

    Many Americans believe undocumented immigrants should be forced to leave the country. In fact, each year, more than 300,000 people are deported.

    But what about people like Fernanda? After all, coming to the United States wasn’t her decision. She and many others were brought here as children by their undocumented parents. Should they be forced to leave too?

A New Dream 

    In 2012, President Barack Obama came up with an answer. He signed an order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The new rule covered people who had been brought to the country illegally as kids. The rule allowed them to stay in the U.S. for at least two years. And it gave them permits to work here.

    Over the next five years, 800,000 immigrants were protected by DACA. Fernanda was one of them. When the program started, she was too young to apply. But her brother and sister applied. DACA opened up opportunities for them. Her brother became a manager at a factory. Her sister got a job at a bank.

    When Fernanda turned 15, she applied for DACA too. “It gave me hope,” she says. “I felt like my dream of going to college could happen.” 

    In 2012, President Obama had an answer. He signed a rule called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

    The new rule was for people who had been brought to the country illegally as kids. It let them stay in the U.S. for at least two years. They could get permits to work.

    DACA helped 800,000 immigrants over five years. Fernanda was one of them. When the program started, she was too young to apply. But her brother and sister did. DACA gave them options. Her brother became a manager at a factory. Her sister got a job at a bank. 

    When Fernanda turned 15, she applied for DACA too. “It gave me hope,” she says. “I felt like my dream of going to college could happen.”

In 2012, President Barack Obama came up with an answer. He signed an order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a new rule that covered people who had been brought to the country illegally as children. The rule allowed them to stay in the United States for at least two years and gave them permits to work here.

Over the next five years, 800,000 undocumented immigrants were protected by DACA. Fernanda was among them. When the program started, she was too young to apply, but her brother and sister were eligible. DACA opened up opportunities for them: Fernanda’s brother became a manager at a factory, and her sister found employment at a bank. 

When Fernanda turned 15, she applied for DACA too. “It gave me hope,” she remembers. “I felt like my dream of going to college could happen.” 

An Uncertain Future

    Fernanda’s excitement didn’t last long. In the summer of 2016, immigration became a big issue in the presidential campaign. Donald Trump promised to get tough on undocumented immigrants. Many Americans supported him.

    As president, Trump has expressed sympathy for immigrants protected by DACA. But late last summer he canceled the program. He announced that it would end on March 5, 2018. Congress can still decide to keep DACA—or replace it with a new rule to help these young immigrants. But as of mid-November, it was unclear what Congress would do.

    Fernanda’s joy didn’t last long. In 2016, immigration was a big part of the presidential race. Donald Trump said he would get tough on undocumented immigrants. Many Americans agreed with him.

    Trump said he feels concern for people helped by DACA. But last summer he chose to cancel it.

    He said that DACA will end in March 2018. But Congress can still choose to keep DACA. Or it can make a new rule to help these young people. As of November, it was not clear what Congress would do.

    Fernanda’s excitement didn’t last long. During the summer of 2016, immigration became a big issue in the presidential campaign. Donald Trump promised to get tough on undocumented immigrants, and many Americans supported him.

    As president, Trump has expressed sympathy for immigrants protected by DACA, but late last summer he canceled the program. He announced that it would end on March 5, 2018. Congress can still decide to keep DACA—or replace it with a new rule to help these young immigrants. As of mid-November, however, it was unclear what Congress would do.

Jim McMahon/Mapman®

A Lot to Lose

    If DACA ends, young immigrants like Fernanda have a lot to lose. They could be fired from their jobs. They could also be forced to leave the country.

    For Fernanda, the president’s announcement was a big setback. “It broke my heart,” she says. “We don’t know what’s going to happen now.”

    But Fernanda refuses to give up on her hopes for the future. She’s a high school senior in Wisconsin. And she’s applying to colleges. She wants to study to become a lawyer who defends people’s civil rights.  

    In the meantime, she has decided to speak out about the rights of immigrants. She believes they deserve a chance to work hard and become successful in their new country. “We want to get an education,” Fernanda says. “We want to have good jobs. And we’re going to keep fighting for our dreams.”

    If DACA ends, young immigrants have a lot to lose. They could lose their jobs. They might have to leave the country.

    For Fernanda, the news was a big setback. “It broke my heart,” she says. “We don’t know what’s going to happen now.”

    But Fernanda won’t give up on her hopes for the future. She’s a high school senior in Wisconsin. She’s applying to colleges. She wants to become a lawyer. She hopes to defend people’s civil rights.

    For now, she will speak out about the rights of immigrants. She thinks they should have the chance to work hard and succeed in their new home. “We want to get an education,” she says. “We want to have good jobs. And we’re going to keep fighting for our dreams.”

    If DACA ends, young immigrants like Fernanda have a lot to lose. They could be fired from their jobs or forced to leave the United States.

    For Fernanda, the president’s announcement was a tremendous setback. “It broke my heart,” she says. “We don’t know what’s going to happen now.”

    Still, Fernanda refuses to give up on her hopes for the future. She’s a high school senior in Wisconsin and is applying to colleges. She wants to study to become a lawyer who defends people’s civil rights.

    In the meantime, she has decided to speak out about the rights of immigrants. She believes they deserve the opportunity to work hard and become successful in their new country. “We want to get an education,” Fernanda says. “We want to have good jobs. And we’re going to keep fighting for our dreams.”

ACTIVITY

5 Questions About DACA

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What does DACA stand for? 

What does DACA stand for? 

What does DACA stand for? 

Who does DACA protect? 

Who does DACA protect? 

Who does DACA protect? 

Where do most DACA immigrants come from?

Where do most DACA immigrants come from?

Where do most DACA immigrants come from?

How does DACA help young immigrants? 

How does DACA help young immigrants? 

How does DACA help young immigrants? 

When is DACA scheduled to end?

When is DACA scheduled to end?

When is DACA scheduled to end?

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