By MARIUXI MANSFIELD
FDU Civil Engineering student Rei Amaya is facing his biggest challenge yet: staying safe in this country.
Amaya was born in El Salvador in 1999. He came to the United States with his mother and his 16-year-old uncle in December 2004. Amaya was only 4.
He doesn’t remember much from that time, but said his mother told him it took almost a month to get into the United States through the Mexican border.
Luckily for Amaya, his father was already in the States.
When a devastating earthquake struck El Salvador in 2001, with more than 108,000 homes destroyed and at least 944 people killed, Amaya’s father made the decision to apply for Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”).
The TPS is part of the Immigration Act of 1990 signed by President George H. W. Bush allowing immigrants who “are temporarily unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions” to stay in the United States.
TPS beneficiaries may remain in the United States and may obtain work authorization. However, TPS does not lead to permanent resident status (green card).
In addition to El Salvador, two other Central American countries are eligible for TPS: Honduras and Nicaragua.
Amaya was raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He graduated from high school and began to look at colleges. Thanks to “Make the Road New Jersey,” a non-pro t organization, Amaya was able to apply for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
After several offers from different universities, Amaya said he decided on FDU because the university gave him the best options financially and educationally.
But suddenly, everything changed.
In June of this year, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it intended to repeal the executive order by the Obama administration that expanded DACA. Trump passed the ball to Congress.
“I have love for these people and now Congress would be able to help them and do it properly,” he said in September.
But the government is not accepting any more requests for DACA.
Homeland Security is only adjudicating DACA renewal requests for participants whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018.
In the state of New Jersey alone there are more than 20,000 DACA recipients, and ending this program would harm the Garden State’s economy.
According to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, “New Jersey’s young immigrants eligible for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) contribute $66 million in state and local taxes each year, the seventh highest level of all the states.”
Amaya was stunned by Trump’s announcement.
“I was in shock, disappointed and I felt devastated cause I had hope that this program was going to protect me,” he said.
Amaya has been determined to go on from the beginning. He understands education is important. In fact, he is the first in his family to go to college.
“I will continue my education regardless of DACA,” Amaya said. “Even if DACA is removed, we as a family, we will keep fighting.”
For more information, visit Make the Road New Jersey at www. maketheroadnj.org.