Business major

How this Utah dreamer responds to the ongoing legal challenges of the immigration program

(Courtesy photo) Carlos Mejia is a graduate of Salt Lake Community College and is currently pursuing a business degree from Utah Valley University.

This story is published jointly by non-profit organizations Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake City Community College, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.

Carlos Mejia lived in Mexico until the age of 6. It was then that his father saved enough money to move the family to the United States.

Mejia, a first generation Salt Lake Community College graduate, has lived here most of her life. He obtained an associate’s degree in psychology before transferring to Utah Valley University. He is now pursuing a degree in commerce.

“As a first generation, my biggest dream is to go on stage,” said Mejia. He dedicated his associate degree to his parents “because they honestly sacrificed so much.”

However, this dream has been threatened more than once. Mejia has legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by the Obama administration in 2012 to protect thousands of young immigrants from deportation who were brought to the United States by their parents out of the system. legal immigration.

Former President Donald Trump has sought to end the program.

“When I heard he wanted to take it off, I was going in spirals.” Mejia said. “Every day I lived with the fear of losing everything I had, and the thought of going back to Mexico and doing it all over again really scared me.”

A Supreme Court ruling in 2020 upheld the program, but it remains under threat. A Texas federal judge ruled on July 16 that the program was illegal and ordered the Biden administration to stop accepting new applications. This decision is being appealed.

In response to the Texas decision, Salt Lake Community College President Denece Huftalin pledged the college’s continued support to young Dreamers living in Utah.

“As Utah’s most diverse college, we want to reaffirm our continued support for all undocumented students,” Huftalin said.

The SLCC Dream Center offers support to undocumented and mixed status students. This support service specializes in individualized advice, support and assistance with student grants. In the past academic year, the center has assisted over 125 students and awarded over $ 62,000 in scholarships.

Mejia works with Brenda Santoyo, the centre’s coordinator. Santoyo is an American Mexican who stayed with her family when she was deported years ago.

“A lot of what I do now is for them, and because I couldn’t help them, I could help other people,” Santoyo said. “I feel like a lot of my background and a lot of what I’m doing here is based on that one experience.”

(Courtesy photo) Brenda Santoyo is the coordinator of the Dream Center at Salt Lake Community College, which helps undocumented students with mixed legal status.

Santoyo believes Huftalin’s statement shows the college is committed to supporting its students.

The recent legal battle – along with others over the past decade – has rocked Dream Center staff and students like Mejia.

“I’m honestly tired of the constant battle, where every year something or someone thinks it’s unfair or someone has a problem, but no one comes up with a solution,” Mejia said. “If we pay taxes, go to school, and we’re good citizens, I don’t see the point in not giving us citizenship or at least providing some protection where we feel better.

Santoyo believes anti-immigration sentiment has grown in recent years, in part because of Congress’ failure to modernize immigration laws. DACA is often mentioned as part of a future immigration bill, but the House and Senate have done little.

“It was always a temporary solution, and there still hasn’t been a solution found,” Santoyo said. “I think all DACA has done is really increase access, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a small population that they’ve been able to help compared to the millions and millions of people. illegal immigrant.”

Dream Center staff will continue to support DACAmented and undocumented students. The office is located on the first floor of the SLCC West Valley Center.

Juan Rios wrote this story as a journalism student at Salt Lake Community College. It is published as part of a new collaboration including non-profit associations Amplify Utah and the Salt Lake Tribune.

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