DACA Creates Opportunity, Uncertainty for Students After Graduation

Diego Castillo and his parents pose for a photo after a Colombia game during the 2014 FIFA World Cup that resulted in a win.
Diego Castillo and his parents pose for a photo after a Colombia game during the 2014 FIFA World Cup that resulted in a win. Courtesy of Diego Castillo

Graduation is a time when most college seniors are frantically looking for jobs.

But for students like Diego Castillo, it’s a time to wonder if graduation will end his time in the United States.

Castillo, a fourth-year sport management student at the University of Florida, has received help from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals since he started college.

“DACA has helped me create new opportunity,” Castillo said. “Because I have a temporary work status, I can help fund my family by myself for all the expenses that come with being in college.”

When he was 3 years old, Castillo and his family left Colombia to escape the crime and war the country was going through.

“We started from zero,” he said. “We probably knew one or two people down in South Florida. Both of my parents started working, both cleaning like the typical Hispanic family job.”

While Castillo’s first experience in the United States was one of building his way up, for Luiza Costa, a fourth-year natural resources conservation student, it has been one of fighting to stay up.

“My family came to the United States when I was seven,” Costa said. “It was pretty simple; I got here when I was seven and now I’m 22. Our documents expired when I was a senior in high school, so I was undocumented for nine months, and then I got DACA.”

Although Costa said she feels DACA has helped her more than it has hurt her, there are still some unfortunate realities she has to face because of it.

“Obviously I’m very thankful that I got the chance to study and work here in the first place, but one thing about my documents is that they aren’t valid for re-entry,” Costa said. “This has affected me because I haven’t been able to see my brothers and sisters and my entire family who are all in Brazil for a very, very long time.”

Costa will graduate from UF in May of 2016, and her DACA documents will allow her to stay in the United States until March of 2017. After that, she has no idea what’s to come.

“I’m not really sure what the rules are about me applying for citizenship with DACA or without DACA,” she said.

Costa’s parents applied for citizenship whens he was still under their previous work authorization, but were denied. Costa said she is not sure how this will affect her in applying for her own.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than 665,000 young people have received DACA.

A survey by Tom K. Wong, National Immigration Law Center and Center for American Progress showed that DACA has significantly improved the lives of recipients in areas such as pay scale, attend school and even retrieve a drivers license.

With graduation nearing closer for Costa, and even more so for Castillo in December, both are still hopeful for what’s to come.

“I know one thing about my family is that we’re a pack of lions,” Castillo said. “We go out there for our prey, which is success, and even though we may run into some bigger people, hey, we don’t care. We’ve gone out there and gotten out, and we’re continuing to get it.”

About Kat Anthony

Kat is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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