UNI student says she feels like an American - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UNI student says she feels like an American

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

Iowa is now one of 15 states, along with the District of Columbia, that is filing a lawsuit against President Trump's plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

The U.S. Justice Department announced yesterday it will start phasing out the Obama-era program, which protects young people who were brought into the U.S. illegally.

President Trump did say he will revisit the program, if Congress can't legalize it.

For the young men and woman in the program, nicknamed 'Dreamers,' the announcement has left them frustrated and wondering what is next for them.  One of those Dreamers is Itzel Chavez, a pre-med student at the University of Northern Iowa.  Chavez says, for a long time, she didn't know she was undocumented.

 "I came here when I was four. I learned English right away. Growing up, I was friends with everybody. I never felt different. I thought I was American. I thought I had been born here," said Chavez.

It wasn't until middle school she learned she wasn't. With no hope of attending college or getting a good job, Chavez gave up until President Obama announced the DACA program.

"She turned the TV up and we just start crying. It was like, 'Oh, finally, maybe I will have a chance in this country. I will be able to go to college. I will be able to do this and that.' Because we thought it was, hopefully, a path to citizenship," recalled Chavez.

 The program is not a path to citizenship, but it has given Dreamers, like Chavez, the ability to chase their dreams.

 President Trump has given Congress six months to make DACA legal.  This means, for the time being, the future for Dreamers remains uncertain.

 "That I consider myself American, that others consider me American, and know the government doesn't think I belong here, that has been the most frustrating," said Chavez.

Iowa Republican Steve King said in a CNN interview that the program itself is illegal.

"DACA is amnesty. It's an unconstitutional amnesty. Amnesty is a pardon for immigration law-breakers and, in this country, is coupled with a reward...They got the objective of their crime to live in America without fear of the law and, on top of that, they got a work permit," said King.

 If Congress doesn't legalize DACA, Chavez will not be able to continue her education. Many believe Congress will be too divided on the issue to come to an agreement.

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