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Utah DACA Student After Trump Decision: 'Sometimes I Choke Up'

Julia Ritchey
Francisco Juarez, 22, is a senior at the University of Utah and DACA recipient.

Francisco Juarez was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was six months old. He's now a senior at the University of Utah. He's also one of nearly 10,000 undocumented immigrants in the state who benefit from the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA.

We asked Juarez to come in and share his story this week after the Trump administration announced plans to end the program. Below are excerpts of our conversation.

Juarez: I actually remember when my mom told us about being undocumented. She had recently got an interview to work at a jewelry store and she was all happy because she could finally work at a place that didn't consist of for cleaning bathrooms or serving fast food. And I remember going with her. And we stayed in the car. She went out and was working with the paperwork and all that good stuff. And then she came out crying. And then at that point I was really confused as to why she wouldn't get the job, and what was going on. And then she let us know that we were undocumented and that she was unable to work due to her legal status.

Q: How old were you?

Juarez: I think I was seven.

Q: How did you react? 

Juarez: I was really angry. I remember telling her that I didn't see the point in trying in school or doing things if I did everything right, I still couldn't benefit from anything. And my mom told me that she was scared to tell me because of that but that something would eventually -- like the system itself would fix, would be fixed at some point in time.

Q: She was optimistic at that point?

Juarez: Very optimistic. So she was like, 'Look, you you can't let this discourage you. I mean if anything, use this like this anger, as a I guess as fuel and be productive.'

Q: Tell me about this week -- how you watched the decision of the Trump administration about DACA?

Juarez: So I was in the library, but I was alone in the corner and I had my laptop out. I was watching it livestream online. I was like 'Come on,' because I know that it started like a minute or two later and I was like I need to get to class at 9:10 a.m. Proccess Analysis class, can't miss that. And then he [Attorney General Jeff Sessions] started speaking and immediately he said, 'We've chosen to rescind DACA.'

And I guess I was kind of in shock. I didn't necessarily get emotional. But shortly after, I was angry...but I just I understood that it happened and that we needed to move forward. So like always I was like just use that as fuel to continue to move forward.

Q: Have you felt emotional since that announcement?

Juarez: I catch myself tearing up every now and then. For example, in my Business Law class when we're talking about executive orders, civil versus criminal law. I mean, that all correlates to immigration and whatnot.

Sometimes I choke up. I haven't necessarily cried. I think about my parents being deported all the time... more than me. Because I'm under DACA, right? I think that's a safety net there.

...Sometimes I choke up. I haven't necessarily cried. I think about my parents being deported all the time -- more than me. Because I'm under DACA, right? I think that's a safety net there. But I catch myself all the time thinking about if I go home today or are they going to be there? Or I'll call my parents out of the blue just because I get this feeling in my stomach and I'll say, 'Are you guys OK? I saw something on the news or I just got this feeling where are you? Stay indoors...' Like I'll send them information about what to do if ICE comes knocking.

Q: All of that sounds enormously stressful especially because you're a senior and you're an honors student and you're doing all this work...and you've got all this fear for your family, and now for yourself. How do you live with that stress?

Juarez: I suppress a lot of it. I can't constantly be thinking about the fact that my parents might be deported. That's why I'm saying when it does happen I reach out. But I try not to think about it, and more than anything I try to focus on the fact that I'm lucky enough to be here. I'm lucky enough to be a college student. I'm lucky enough to have these scholarships. I'm lucky enough to have a loving and caring family that I can share anything with. I focus on that more than on what could happen just because that's what helps me get through the day.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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