Immigrant 'Dreamers' - and their bosses - wait anxiously for Trump decision

(Reuters) - Ilka Eren, 25, came to the United States from Turkey with her parents more than 15 years ago and lives in the country without legal authorization.

While in college, she applied and qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that President Donald Trump vowed to end during his 2016 presidential campaign.

The program does not change an immigrant's legal status but rather protects from deportation and gives the right to work to so-called “Dreamers,” young people brought to the United States as children and living in the country illegally. Nearly 800,000 immigrants have received DACA protection since the program's launch in 2012.

SEE ALSO: Obama expected to publicly defend DACA if Trump moves to end program

Eren’s DACA status opened the door to several internships, and eventually to a job in New York at Ovation Travel Group, which provides travel services to corporations, as executive assistant to the chief financial officer.

“DACA literally changed my life,” she said. “I really don’t know where I would be without it.”

Paul Metselaar, Ovation’s chief executive, doesn’t know where he’d be without Eren.

He said her job responsibilities have grown because of her abilities. He said she reminded him of his own grandparents, who immigrated to the United States to seek a better life. If Eren were to lose her work eligibility it would be a blow to his company, Metselaar said.

But, he added, “it would be much more of a blow to her family, and to who we are as a country.”

Trump is expected to announce a decision to end DACA on Tuesday, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation, but with a delay of up to six months to allow Congress to find a legislative solution.

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to quickly repeal the program, but since taking office - even as he has stepped up immigration enforcement - he has at times taken a softer tone about DACA. “We love the Dreamers,” he told reporters on Friday.

Immigration hardliners within the Republican Party have pressured the president to scrap the program. Nine Republican state attorneys general have said they will file a legal challenge to the program if the Trump administration does not end it by Tuesday.

Many business leaders have urged the president to keep DACA protections in place, including the heads of tech giants Microsoft <MSFT.O> , Apple <AAPL.O> and Facebook <FB.O>. They have generally cited a potential hit to the economy if the program were to end, although there is scant government data on Dreamers as a distinct economic group.

Still, with the U.S. economy at close to full employment, ending DACA would bring a net loss in productivity, said Giovanni Peri, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis who studies immigration.

Groups that support stricter immigration enforcement say that eliminating the program would bring benefits, too.

“The end of DACA would result in much-welcomed job openings for American college graduates and other American workers who are either unemployed or underemployed and feel completely locked out of the workforce and blocked from achieving their American dream,” said Dave Ray, communications director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors reduced immigration. 

In interviews with Reuters, DACA recipients and their employers emphasized another aspect of what it would mean to end the program: The holes such a move would leave in lives and workplaces.

27 PHOTOS
Protesters show support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
See Gallery
Protesters show support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Yessenia Lopez stands with supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Protesters gather to show support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Demonstrators carrying signs supporting immigrants march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Demonstrators supporting immigrants march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Demonstrators carrying signs march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Dafne Jacobs, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient stands with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2017/08/30: Activists rallied in Columbus Circle and marched from there to Trump Tower in protest of President Donald Trump's possible elimination of the Obama-era 'Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals' (DACA) which curtails deportation of an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TRUMP TOWER - FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/08/15: On the fifth anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the New York Immigration Coalition will join its partners and immigrant New Yorkers to demand an end to discriminatory attacks on undocumented immigrant communities. Immigration advocates rally near Trump Tower on August 15, 2017; to demand Administration uphold programs that protect 1.2 million people from deportation. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Hundreds of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally and march to Trump Tower in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also known as DACA on August 30, 2017 in New York City. Immigrants and advocates across the country are waiting to hear President Donald Trump's decision on whether he will keep DACA which allows young people who immigrated to the U.S. as children to temporarily escape deportation and receive other benefits, started under President Barack Obama in 2012. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: Serafina Ha (R) of Chicago embraces Becky Belcore of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium during a demonstration in favor of immigration reform in front of the White House August 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. Organized by The Franciscan Action Network, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Church World Service and Sisters of Mercy and NAKASEC, the rally began seven days of prayer and fasting to demand the Trump Administration protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protection Status (TPS). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Hundreds of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally and march to Trump Tower in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also known as DACA on August 30, 2017 in New York City. Immigrants and advocates across the country are waiting to hear President Donald Trump's decision on whether he will keep DACA which allows young people who immigrated to the U.S. as children to temporarily escape deportation and receive other benefits, started under President Barack Obama in 2012. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Young immigrants and supporters gather for a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Los Angeles, California on September 1, 2017. A decision is expected in coming days on whether US President Trump will end the program by his predecessor, former President Obama, on DACA which has protected some 800,000 undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers, since 2012. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Young immigrants and supporters walk holding signs during a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Los Angeles, California on September 1, 2017. A decision is expected in coming days on whether US President Trump will end the program by his predecessor, former President Obama, on DACA which has protected some 800,000 undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers, since 2012. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 5: Demonstrators hold signs outside of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building during a demonstration in response to the Trump Administration's announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on September 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. DACA, an immigration policy passed by former President Barack Obama, allows certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors to receive renewable two-year deferred action from deportation and eligibility fork a work permit. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration today scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration today scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
A person from the group called "Make the Road" is detained while protesting in support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Members of the New York City police detain people protesting in support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient Alejandro Villasenor (L), from Mexico speaks speaks with other DACA recipient s during a town hall style meeting hosted by Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL 4th Dist) speaks about protecting DACA recipients in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. September 14, 2017. Picture taken September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Immigration activists and DACA recipients take part in a rally about the importance of passing a clean DREAM Act before delivering a million signatures to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 10: Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron D. Ford (D-Las Vegas) (3rd L) joins immigrants and supporters as they march on the Las Vegas Strip during a 'We Rise for the Dream' rally to oppose U.S. President Donald Trump's order to end DACA on September 10, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protects young immigrants who grew up in the U.S. after arriving with their undocumented parents from deportation to a foreign country. Trump's executive order removes protection for about 800,000 current 'dreamers,' about 13,000 of whom live in Nevada. Congress has the option to replace the policy with legislation before DACA expires on March 5, 2018. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 14: Immigration rights activists rally during a protest and press conference before a court hearing challenging the Trump administration's termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, September 14, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. A court hearing was scheduled for this afternoon in a lawsuit brought last year on behalf of Martin Batalla Vidal, who came to the United States from Mexico with his parents when he was 7 years old. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 16: Rodrigo Valencia, 3, of Waltham waves a flag as he is held by his mother Vanessa as they joined hundreds of others attending a rally in support of DACA at the Boston Common on Sep. 16, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"I KNEW SHE WOULD BE SOMEONE"

Georgina Lepe, who runs a real estate law and probate practice from her office in Rancho Cucamonga, California, liked Karla Martinez so much she hired her twice.  

She first met Martinez when she was busing tables at a Mexican restaurant owned by Lepe’s family and was impressed with her work ethic. When Martinez graduated from the University of Southern California in December 2015, Lepe hired her to help temporarily with marketing.

Martinez left after a few months to work elsewhere. Lepe later tracked her down and asked her to come back, this time as a full-time legal assistant.

“Even when she was working at the restaurant, I knew she would be someone,” said Lepe, who is 30 and, like Martinez, from a Mexican family. “The difference between (us) is, my family was able to help me out financially to achieve my goals.”

Martinez, who came to the United States with her mother when she was four, helps pay the bills in the home she shares with her mother and two younger siblings. Now 24, she’s planning to apply to law school - if DACA doesn’t end and she can still afford to go back to school.

“Obviously I think about it and it’s a little scary but I don’t let it take over me,” Martinez said.

Lepe says if Martinez’s work permit is rescinded, “I would keep Karla until the very last second” and probably wouldn’t hire a replacement. “I don’t think anyone can compare,” she says.

"IT REALLY EMPOWERS YOU"

Chuck Rocha, the founder of Solidarity Strategies, employs DACA recipient Luis Alcauter at his Washington D.C.-based political consulting firm, which specializes in outreach to Latinos. Losing Alcauter "would be devastating," Rocha said.

Alcauter, 27, came to the United States from Mexico when he was 13, and attended California State University, Fresno, where he developed an interest in politics, which led to his interning on Capitol Hill.  The internship was possible, he said, because of his DACA status.

"To be able to have the documents and be able to apply wherever you want, it really empowers you to think beyond the place you were," Alcauter said. "It just empowers people to be able to find a job, to get a car, to buy a house, to move around, to contribute to their families."

"I ACTUALLY HAVE A GOOD CAR"

Juan Ochoa, CEO of Miramar Group, an Illinois-based facilities management company that oversees 1,200 buildings nationwide, said his company will hire an attorney to try to keep DACA employee Jay Meza, 23, if the program ends.

“I have a good job now,” said Meza, who came to the United States from Mexico with his parents and brother when he was 3 years old. “I actually am looking forward to buying my first house. I actually have a good car.”

Ochoa said Meza started at Miramar doing data entry and analyzing spreadsheets and went on to help the company build a system allowing it to track its buildings and employees.

“We have invested a lot of time and money in training Jay, and so it would be a significant loss to us,” he said.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.