I am a Dreamer and, like thousands of other young Americans, I was brought to this country from Quito, Ecuador when I was just 6 months old. My earliest memories are of growing up in Miami to now where I am at the half way point of completing law school at Florida State University. Miami and Tallahassee have always been my home, and I cannot imagine living anywhere else.
I remember how happy and relieved I was when the government began the DACA program because it allowed me and over 800,000 other young Americans (including nearly 36,000 here in Florida) the chance to legally stay here if we’re working, studying or serving in the military.
Florida specifically has stood up for Dreamers by offering us in-state tuition so that we can attend Florida universities, diversifying classrooms and adding competition, and then allowing us to contribute back to Florida upon graduation and fill critical skills gaps.
My fellow Dreamers and I have tried to make the most of this opportunity. Over 90 percent of us are employed and are an active part of the economy. Nearly 3,700 of us are entrepreneurs creating jobs and we are responsible for over $120 million in state and local tax revenue every year. In total, DACA recipients are responsible for bringing over $1.2 billion in spending power to Florida.
Unfortunately, last year the Trump administration ended the DACA program and put Dreamers like me at risk of deportation and, although the president called on Congress to pass a solution protecting us, we’ve been stuck in legal limbo ever since. If we lose our protections and are deported, not only will we be forced from our homes, but Florida will lose all that we contribute.
We are not the only ones facing this plight – TPS holders have made their homes in the U.S. after escaping danger in their previous countries and have spent decades rebuilding their lives here, becoming integral parts of their communities and local economies. The Trump administration has also ended TPS protections and beneficiaries could soon face deportation, too.
With a new Congress, our lawmakers need to put Washington’s dysfunction behind them and work together to achieve results for these immigrant communities who have been contributing to our country for decades. Floridians are calling for results, and this cannot be delayed – for my benefit and thousands of others like me.
I am profoundly thankful and fortunate to be one of the almost 800,000 Americans who have qualified for DACA status. The DACA program has helped me understand my identity as Ecuadorian-American. DACA has given me the confidence and tools to dream bigger, and speak louder. I am a better advocate for it, and I will continue to fight.
Daniela Donoso is a member of the FWD.us Florida coalition, DACA recipient, FSU law student, and Student Program Coordinator at FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights