BURLINGTON, Vt. - A Burlington woman says her status as a “Dreamer” means she no longer lives in fear of deportation. She’s afraid that will go away if President Donald Trump repeals the Obama-era immigration program that made it possible.
"I came when I was 15 years old and I came without documents," said Martha Herrera Coria, through a translator. She is now 27 years old.
She lived in the state of New York for most of the last 12 years before moving to Vermont a year ago.
She became a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA, soon after President Barack Obama signed the executive order in 2012, she says.
The DREAM Act, which would have offered legal status in return for attending college or joining the military, was first introduced in 2001 and the latest version was voted down in the Senate in December 2010.
DACA allows people, who came to the U.S. without documentation before they turned 16 years old and were 31 years of age or younger before June 2012, to stay in the country without fear of deportation.
It does not provide a path to citizenship.
“Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege to go visit my parents in Mexico because I have DACA,” she said.
Herrera Coria hadn’t seen her parents since she left Mexico, for fear she wouldn’t be able to re-enter the U.S.
Because she’s a DACA recipient, Herrera Coria is protected from deportation.
“When I first got DACA, I was able to get a better job with a better salary and go to work and live freely without the fear that because I'm a person of color or because I don't speak English well, that I could be detained and then deported,” she said.
Sources say President Trump is expected to end the program with a 6 month delay with hopes that Congress will pass a formal replacement for it in that time period.
In February, the president pledged to “use his heart” when dealing with the program’s future.
“The DACA situation is a very, very--it's a very difficult thing for me...because I love these kids. I love--kids. I have kids and grandkids,” said President Trump.
“Now we're seeing the reverse happen, that he's considering ending the program,” said Herrera Coria.
Lawmakers in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire say they won’t stand for it.
“These are kids who only want to be good, hardworking Americans,” wrote Sen. Chuck Schumer (D - NY) on Twitter. “@POTUS ought to rethink before he does huge damage to them & the economy.
“Dreamers have only ever called the U.S. their home. This is their country. This action is an affront to who we are as Americans,” wrote Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D - NY) on Twitter.
“Taking legal protections away from 800,000 young people raised in this country is absolutely counter to what we stand for as a nation,” wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders (I - Vt.) on Twitter. “If Trump ends DACA, Congress must act immediately to restore it.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D - Vt.) has been retweeting pro-DACA tweets for the last few days.
“I strongly urge @POTUS to keep his promise to #DREAMers,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D - NH). “These young people’s energy and innovation are vital to our nation’s future.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D - NY) and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman threatened to sue to protect the dreamers.
“The President's action would upend the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who have only ever called America their home, including roughly 42,000 New Yorkers. It will rip families apart, sow havoc in our communities and force innocent people—our neighbors, our friends, and our relatives—to live in fear,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.
"President Trump's decision to end the DACA program would be cruel, gratuitous, and devastating to tens of thousands of New Yorkers—and I will sue to protect them. Dreamers are Americans in every way,” said AG Schneiderman in a statement.
In July, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan joined Schneiderman in signing a letter to the president, urging him to keep DACA.
Meanwhile, Herrera Coria’s fate hangs in the balance.
“DACA is so important because it's opened a door in the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who now can live at ease and with freedom, with actual freedom and liberty in this country,” she said.
Local 22 & Local 44 reached out to the office of Gov. Phil Scott (R - Vt.) for comment and has not yet heard back.
The Lions Club of Essex Junction prides itself on community…