Demonstrators gathered outside Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office Tuesday to protest the White House decision to get rid of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Paxton forced the administration to make a decision when he wrote a letter to President Trump in June, asking him to overturn the policy or face a lawsuit from Texas and nine other states.
"I grew up with your kids," Karen Reyes, one of the 120,000 people in Texas covered under DACA, told the crowd. "I was in Girl Scouts, I was in the marching band. I did everything a typical American kid did. Now I am teaching your students – your children – to be great Americans.”
Reyes, a special education teacher in Austin, crossed the U.S. border from Mexico illegally when she was 2. She doesn't remember coming to the U.S. and considers herself to be just as American as someone born here.
Despite her master’s degree and years of experience, Reyes said, the only reason she can have her job is because she has a DACA work permit. If Congress lets the program end without a replacement, Reyes will lose her ability to work here and could be deported.
"It is emotional because I’m a teacher; this is what I do,” she said. “I love my kids, I love my job, it’s all I want to do, but potentially this could be my last school year.”
It’s a reality faced by the 800,000 people covered by DACA, which will be phased out in March unless Congress acts.
“It’s definitely scary just because you’re not sure what will happen, what career perspectives there are for you,” Jose Garibay, another DACA recipient, said at the rally. “I definitely think it’s scary looking at it that way.”
The St. Edward’s student hopes to earn a master’s degree in education policy. But if Garibay can’t get a work permit, he can’t have that career in the U.S.
He said he’s hopeful Congress won't let the program die and that legislators will use this opportunity to advance immigration reform.
Reyes said DACA recipients like her will depend on others to help them appeal to lawmakers.
“I am filled with hope because we do have amazing allies all over the country,” she said. “I don’t think Trump or Jeff Sessions realize what they have awoken.”