The immigration protection program is associated with youth — but today, many of its 600,000 beneficiaries are not so young anymore.
"None of us expected to have to renew our status every two years for over a decade," said 37-year-old Juliana Macedo do Nascimento.
It's been 11 years since President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, allowing some immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to drive, study and work in America without fear of deportation.
"It's lifesaving really for me," said Macedo do Nascimento who was 14 when she moved to the U.S. from Brazil with her family.
When she obtained DACA in 2013, she says, she "could finally have a job that I actually wanted to have. And that meant the world."
A decade and many degrees later, she's a deputy director of advocacy for United We Dream, a national group based in Washington, D.C.
For hundreds of thousands of recipients like Macedo do Nascimento, DACA has been a launching pad to middle class. Many have become homeowners and parents to U.S. citizens.
Yet, in the face of congressional inaction, their future in this country is far from guaranteed.
In 2021, a federal judge ruled in favor of nine Republican-led states that argued the program was illegal. After the Biden administration sought to revise and fortify the policy last year, the case got sent back to the same judge, who's expected to issue a similar decision.
"I have one more year of college so thinking about [DACA] ending just sucks because I've done all this work," said 21-year-old Katia Rubio Leal, a DACA recipient who was brought from Mexico to the U.S. when she was only two.
After growing up undocumented in Arkansas, Rubio Leal got DACA when she was 15, right before the Trump administration tried to end the program, which resulted in a freeze for new applications.
She's one year away from graduating with a biomedical engineering degree — and is getting ready to apply for grad school.
One day, she hopes to find a job designing prosthetic limbs. Whether her dream comes true is most likely out of her hands.
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