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Ottumwa DACA recipient worries about her future

"It's scary knowing that you won't be able to work anymore, not have a chance to be proud of the things you have worked for," - Graciela Rivera, 21, of Ottumwa /KTVO

The nation's immigration population is on edge this month, as President Donald Trump weighs the fate of DACA.

KTVO spoke with an Ottumwa immigrant enrolled in the program, whose future could be in jeopardy.

When she was seven years old, Graciela Rivera, 21, said her father brought her to the United States from Mexico.

"Wouldn't the parents want their kids to have a better life? Somewhere where they can be away from all the drugs, any kind of poverty, a better chance for the kids to have a better education," Rivera said.

A better education…it's the dream Rivera's father had for her, the reason he brought her to this country.

He got his wish. Rivera graduated from Ottumwa High School, and with some college, landed a job at South Ottumwa Savings Bank. She now lives in a house with her name on it, and drives a car, also in her name.

"They were already feeling very concerned, and very, quite honestly depressed, because here they are, growing up in this country, going to school, some of them, very, very good students and they say to me, Ann, what hope do I have for the future," said Ann Naffier, Managing Attorney with Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors. "And then DACA came along and people really perked up, I mean they really got excited about it."

DACA didn't pave the way to citizenship, but it did get the so-called ‘Dreamers’ social security, eligibility for a driver's license, and more importantly, immunity from deportation. The Obama-era program, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, could be repealed soon, as the President announced earlier this month.

"These are all folks could now lose that dream that they have been so positive about for five years and now, having it taken away from them, obviously, it's going to be something that's very traumatizing for them, very depressing for them," Naffier said.

Rivera just learned applying for citizenship is much harder than she thought.

"Once you turn 21, and if your parents haven't applied for you to be a resident, then that's pretty much it, you're done," Rivera said.

It’s a situation she hopes all Iowans understand. So she turned to Ottumwa school board members, asking about their plans for DACA students enrolled in the district.

"I thought Gracie was so incredibly brave to be willing to come forward to share her story, and of course it was very moving, very empowering," said Ottumwa School Board Vice President Leisa Walker. "But I think as a school board, we need to show our support."

Rivera is still weighing her options, as are many Ottumwans enrolled in the DACA program. A group of those recipients have plans to meet in Ottumwa’s central park Sunday night, to organize a vigil.

"Not a rally, not a protest, that's something we want people to realize," Rivera said. "We are trying to see if there's a lawyer who can help us out."

The Ottumwa School Board is expected to vote Monday night on a list of regulations and guidelines for DACA students.


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