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'It's Meant So Much': One Yale Student On DACA Status

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Courtesy: Cristian Padilla Romero
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Cristian Padilla Romero with his mother, Tania Romero

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that shields young immigrants from deportation and allows them to work legally in the U.S. 

Cristian Padilla Romero is a Yale University doctoral student and a DACA recipient. His mother, Tania Romero, is undocumented and currently in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention in Georgia, facing imminent deportation.

Here are highlights of Cristian Padilla Romero’s conversation with Connecticut Public Radio:

On his family’s story:

My family is from Honduras. I came when I was 7 to Atlanta. I’m now 24 years old. I have three sisters. My family -- like many Central American immigrant families -- we’re just working-class people who worked in different sectors, construction, different service industries. I was fortunate to be able to do well in high school. I had certain opportunities that allowed me to get into a really good college and end up eventually here at Yale.

On his mother’s support:

We’re from rural Honduras, so very little education. She completed the sixth grade. We both almost died as kids due to different illnesses that are very preventable here in the U.S., but not so much over there. So all those things pushed our family to come here. Ever since she’s come here, she’s worked one, two, up to three jobs at a time to make ends meet. And so she did that all the way till I went to college when she got sick. She was diagnosed with a neck cancer. Up until that point she was my sole provider in every imaginable way, emotional, financial. It’s what gave me stability in my life as I grew up.

On the impact of his mother’s arrest and detention:

Even starting this semester was a decision that took a lot of deliberation on my part. I wanted to be home. I finally decided to come and see what I could do from here. And I think I’ve been doing a decent job until last week and this week where it’s like I’ve been on high alert 24/7 just because of the situation she’s in.

On DACA protection:

It’s meant so much. I was able to work during college and in general have some peace of mind knowing that you’re not at an immediate risk of deportation. At the same time, it’s a very difficult task for us, that our parents and even our peers who don’t qualify for whatever reason don’t have those sorts of protections. This problem is something that involves over 11 million people, and DACA only covers about 800,000, which is a very small number if you think about it in the bigger picture. It’s heartbreaking to know that some people don’t have this peace of mind to be able to work, or at least know that your work is not criminalized.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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