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UW-Madison grad student's DACA protections expired in August. So what happened to her?

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UW-Madison graduate student Laura Minero is one of hundreds of thousands of "Dreamers" receiving protections through the DACA program.

She doesn’t try to live her life like it comes with an expiration date.

But President Donald Trump threw UW-Madison graduate student Laura Minero’s life into doubt when his administration announced in 2017 a plan to repeal an Obama-era program that shields hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers,” including Minero, from deportation.

Minero, who was brought to California from Mexico when she was 5 years old, and thousands of other undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children receive protection through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Minero’s protections expired in August.

Legal challenges have halted the termination of DACA, permitting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to continue accepting and processing DACA renewals.

With the help of an attorney, Minero was able to renew her document and protections through April 2020 — her new expiration date.

But Minero says she tries to live her life without that date looming over her.

“After so many times in the past of being afraid and wondering, somehow it’s always worked out,” she said. “These movements in the courts, people are standing against these injustices.”

In fall 2017, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to phase out and terminate the program, drawing praise from Republicans who see DACA as a program that harms American workers and characterize the way Obama established the program in 2012 as executive overreach.

Erin Barbato, an immigration attorney and clinical professor in the UW-Madison Law School, has a different take.

“DACA recipients are living a life of uncertainty while they obtain college degrees, advance their professional careers, raise U.S. citizen children, and build homes in the U.S.,” Barbato said. “Without knowing the future of DACA, they have to live with anxiety and fear of being torn from the only country they know as home. In my opinion, this is no way to treat human beings who are contributing to the beauty and growth of the U.S.”

A disagreement over DACA’s funding led to the first government shutdown of Trump’s presidency, which lasted three days in late January 2018.

For now, DACA is kept alive as the case works its way through the courts.

“I think the biggest fear right now is that it’s just not going to go anywhere and it will just end,” Minero said.

She is in her fifth year of UW-Madison’s six-year counseling psychology doctoral program.

Minero finished her coursework in Madison last spring and is working on her dissertation remotely because she moved to California over the summer to marry her wife.

Minero spent the fall interviewing for her clinical placement in the 2019-20 school year.

“A lot of what’s been unfolding over the last two years pushed me even more and more into advocacy,” she said. “Seeing the importance of folks like us directly affected by policy — that’s become an interest of mine.”

Minero was recently selected for a 12-week fellowship with the National Academies of Sciences Medicine and Engineering. She said her research project will study immigration and children at the border.

She leaves for Washington, D.C., in January.


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