Ever since Yvonne Navarrete was in first grade, she knew she wanted to go to college.
But as Navarrete was growing up in southwest Detroit, she realized she might not have that opportunity because her parents brought her and two brothers here from Mexico, and all are undocumented.
“My mom would always say, ‘Just have faith. Something might happen,’ ” she said.
Something did happen when Navarrete was in high school: She and others brought to this country while children got protection under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012.
Navarrete went on to graduate from Cass Tech High School and enrolled at the University of Michigan, where she plans to graduate in 2019 with a degree in public policy.
But she and thousands of other young people now are in limbo after President Donald Trump announced in September he was ending DACA but giving Congress six months to fix it.
Since then, UM and hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation have been pushing for federal legislation to keep the program going, while Navarrete and other “Dreamers” are coping with uncertainty about their futures.
Unless Congress acts by March 5, 2018, those enrolled in DACA will lose their legal protection — and could be deported to their native country.
“I’m hopeful that Congress isn’t heartless and will at least prolong DACA,” said Navarrete, 19. “But I’m fearful because Congress is majority Republican; they have never been supportive of immigrants, and the way Trump talks about immigrants and all of his supporters, no one is sure what will happen.”
“My worst fear,” Navarrete continued, “is that everything I have sacrificed and my parents have sacrificed thus far will be in vain and we will be deported, and all the opportunities that were placed upon us will be taken away. ”
DACA allowed unauthorized children who came to the United States with their parents to work and go to college and granted them a two-year deferment from deportation. Obama enacted the program after immigration reform measures stalled in Congress, including legislation to provide legal status for highly educated but undocumented young people.
In 2016, an estimated 1.9 million people in the U.S. were eligible for DACA, with the vast majority, nearly 1.29 million, from Mexico, according to data analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute. Of those, 15,000 in Michigan were eligible for the program.
Trump’s move has galvanized higher education leaders, activists, leaders across the political spectrum and even the president’s daughter, Ivanka, all of whom have called for a legislative fix.
Some, like UM associate professor Jason De Leon, said this could be the issue that forces Republicans to challenge Trump.
“There are many people in the Republican Party who see the brutality of this move,” said De Leon, who was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, often known as a “genius grant,” for his work documenting clandestine migration along the U.S.-Mexican border.