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'I bawled my eyes out:' A local DACA recipient details the struggles she faces not being a U.S. citizen

​"I haven't stopped dreaming of becoming a U.S citizen."
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Posted at 6:21 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-05 20:08:17-04

MILWAUKEE — Nearly 6,000 people living in Wisconsin are known as "dreamers" under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act.

It's a United States immigration policy that protects children who entered the country unlawfully as a child, allowing them to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation.

It also allows them to apply for a social security number, driver's license and a work permit.

Valeria Fuentes came to Milwaukee from Mexico with her family when she was one. She's what's known as a dreamer.

Valeria Fuentes pictured at a holiday gathering at the hospital she works at
Valeria Fuentes pictured at a holiday gathering at the hospital she works at

Right now, Fuentes works as a certified nursing assistant at a local hospital. She wants to continue her education, but says she was turned away from at least one school.

"I never realized certain universities don't allow DACA," she said.

In a text message thread between Fuentes and her former college adviser, her adviser texts her, "Since DACA students don't meet the definition of citizen or national they would not be eligible for financial aid." Fuentes then asks, "So that means I can't attend even if I pay out of pocket?" In which she's told "I believe so."

"I balled my eyes out for the longest, and that's when a part of me blamed myself for being a DACA recipient," Fuentes said.

We have not disclosed the name of the institutions at Fuentes's request.

John Sesini is a local immigration attorney who works with hundreds of DACA recipients, and he says he's never come across a situation like this.

"There should be no limitations and or restrictions at all if she pays out of pocket," Sesini said. "It could be that this private school has its own requirements."

Sesini told us some of his clients attend Marquette University, a private institution that accepts DACA students.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are more than 590,000 DACA recipients in the United States and nearly 6,000 of them call Wisconsin home.

However, DACA applications are currently halted.

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"Right now the administration is prohibited by a national injunction to processing any new applications for DACA," Sesini stated.

This does not impact those like Fuentes who have had DACA status, but being a so-called "dreamer" can be difficult overall. Sesini said this process puts heavy stress on families.

Fuentes is still fighting for her dreams. She's looking at other schools, with the ultimate goal of creating a space for the elderly Hispanic population.

"Having my own group home in Milwaukee for Hispanics. And not seeing people, my Hispanics get neglected because of language," she said.

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