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As DACA program passes 10-year anniversary, young immigrants say more has to be done

Posted at 9:29 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 22:29:57-04

WACO, Texas — This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program in the U.S.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must have arrived in the country before turning 16 and before 2012 when the program was started. They also can't be convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor.

More than 600,000 people are DACA recipients, including many in Texas.

Benito Costilla has called central Texas home for 20 years and was accepted into the DACA program when it first was created.

"I applied almost immediately after President Obama created the program," Costilla told 25 News. "It's been a wild rollercoaster ride."

Costilla and his family moved to the United States from Mexico when he was just five-years-old.

"I get so many opportunities that without DACA I would not have had," he said of his experience.

He not only became the first person in his family to graduate high school, hut he also has a degree in biotechnology and another in biology.

"I'm doing great as far as my career goes and without DACA, I would not be legally be allowed to be employed or work so it's a huge opportunity because of that," he said. "However on the other side, it's constantly under threat."

The program has faced many challenges over the last decade, including the Trump Administration's effort to set a deadline with the hopes Congress would act. Instead the Supreme Court blocked the sunset order based on a technicality.

In 2021 a federal judge in Texas issued a ruling blocking new DACA applications for anyone not already in the program.

"When we when we defended the program and we won it was a big sigh of relief, but we knew that we weren't out of hot water yet and we were hoping that this is the wakeup call that congress really was, was looking for or needed," Luis Cortes, a lawyer with the Novo Legal Group who help defend the program in the high court, said.

Three US presidents agreed the program shouldn't be permanent, but Congress has yet to put it up for a vote.

Now advocates like Costilla from all across the country hope to change that.

"I think when we are ultimately successful, I am just going to be so honored to have had the opportunity to have contributed to it," he said.