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SoCal's undocumented youth under Trump: 'It's difficult, not knowing what will happen'




Laura Flores, 27, and Chando Kem, 21, both received DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) under President Obama's executive action for undocumented youth. They said that because of the federal program, their lives have changed in big ways. But DACA faces an uncertain future under President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to end it.
Laura Flores, 27, and Chando Kem, 21, both received DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) under President Obama's executive action for undocumented youth. They said that because of the federal program, their lives have changed in big ways. But DACA faces an uncertain future under President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to end it.
Dorian Merina / KPCC

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Undocumented youth in Southern California are expressing a mix of concern, resolve and anxiety after the presidential election ushered in Donald Trump, a candidate who has vowed to speed up deportations, build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and end a popular program that enables youth to work and attend school without fear of deportation.

One of the most immediate and drastic changes the president-elect could make, say immigration lawyers, is to put an end to the federal program, known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. California is home to nearly 240,000 youth who benefit from the federal plan that offers them temporary immigration relief, according to the Migration Policy Institute.


The program was created in 2012 through an executive order signed by President Obama. And since it's a presidential order – and not a law passed by Congress – it can also be ended by the stroke of a pen. That's exactly what President-elect Donald Trump has promised to do, saying that he will "immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties," according to his campaign's immigration plan.

That prospect has left many young people with questions about an uncertain future.

"It has really helped me," said Alma de Jesus, a DACA recipient who lives in L.A. "It has given me the opportunity to work in better jobs and be able to give my family a better lifestyle and to contribute to this economy."

She said her steady employment allowed her family to move to a larger and more secure home, and enables her to pay for things like clothes and school supplies for her two young children.

But that all could change.

"It's a very difficult time for us, not knowing what will happen," said de Jesus.

That's a fear that many DACA recipients are expressing, according to Annaluisa Padilla, the incoming president for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

"If the DACA program is eliminated, all of these individuals are at risk of deportation," said Padilla.

That could also have an economic impact, as the region's businesses could be scrambling to replace workers who they hired through DACA, she added.

However, regardless of what happens to the federal DACA program, California still has laws on the books that offer benefits to undocumented residents, such as access to a driver's license and student aid for public universities.