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Teenage DACA recipients call America home

Teenage DACA recipients call America home

Now in their senior and sophomore years of high school, Karen and José Ramos — ages 18 and 16, respectively — are just starting to imagine how they might make their mark on the world after graduation.

Karen wants to be a cosmetologist, and José wants to be a lawyer.

“I like to learn about history and what new laws are, defend people,” José said.

José has had occasion to deal with legal issues in the past, and not because he’s gotten himself accused of wrongdoing. José and Karen are both DACA recipients, having applied for the deportation relief program so they could get jobs. Karen hired a lawyer to help her with her application — she paid about $1,000 for that service — while José navigated the application process on his own.

DACA is important to them because it allows them to help their parents with their earnings, and it opens the door to pursuing more education after high school. When asked what DACA’s revocation would mean for them, Karen and José didn’t mention deportation or a return to Mexico. Instead, they talked about a lack of opportunity and a return to life in the shadows.

“We won’t be able to get our driver’s license and after our permit ends we won’t be able to work anymore,” José said, “We won’t have the same opportunities we used to have.”

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The siblings were only 4 and 6 years old when they crossed the border with their mom to join their dad in the United States, and they don’t remember much about their home country of Mexico. Karen can recall that the people were nice, that she liked her school and that there wasn’t any snow there.

She and José disagree on how long the crossing took but remember that there were about 10 guys in the group they traveled with, and Karen and her mother were the only females. The men were “so respectful,” Karen said, and made sure she and her mom were in the middle of the group. The whole time, Karen said, she was excited to see her dad.

That was 12 years ago. Now, the teenagers live in Haywood County with a family that includes two younger siblings, ages 10 and 7, who were born in the United States. Most of their lives have been lived here, too, and they hope the same will hold true for their future.

“It’s not where I was born,” Karen said, “but I can call it home.”

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