Neidi Dominguez, 25, lives in constant fear daily. She was brought to America at nine years old from Morelos, a once- agricultural state in south-central Mexico that’s now moving toward industry and commerce. Neidi remained undocumented until she was 24, when she fell in love and got married to a U.S. citizen. Her spouse petitioned the government for a green card and now Dominguez is what the U.S. government calls a legal resident.
Dominguez’ fear is not for herself, but for her mother, who remains undocumented, and her extended family, aunts and uncles who without official documentation are considered illegal even though they have American-born children. If any of her undocumented family members are at the wrong place at the wrong time, in California that’s a sure way to initiate deportation proceedings. The responsibility for Dominguez’ cousins would then no doubt fall on her and her sister, who is a beneficiary of “deferred action.”
“It is this constant fear of knowing that there is no guarantee that we can remain together,” Dominguez said during a telephone interview on Thursday. It’s the first anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Immigrants, or DACA, a program that provides a two-year reprieve for work and study to immigrants without criminal records brought to the U.S. as children.
The fate of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants hangs in the balance as Congress continues to debate the issue. Progress is stalled by debates over whether the undocumented should get a path to citizenship, or simply legal status, and whether the border is fully secured or more should be done to keep others out. The undocumented population will stay in the shadows for as long as Congress drags on, and the fear will never go away unless something is done to right the broken status quo.