Philadelphia DACA recipient details journey, hope for pathway to citizenship

There are roughly 160,000 undocumented Pennsylvanians, officials say.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- After a Texas judge ruled DACA to be unlawful this summer, Dreamers across the country fear their futures could become uncertain.

"Right now, we have all these DACA recipients that are a little bit in limbo," said Andy Kang, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. "While they're not in immediate danger this year, as that case finds its way to the Supreme Court - and we anticipate it will-there is uncertainty about the futures of all these folks."

That includes 27-year-old Karla Rojas. She grew up in South Philadelphia, but it's not the only home she's ever known.

"I came here when I was seven years old from Mexico," she said.

Rojas says her parents moved him to the U.S. to escape violence.

"It was either that or I wasn't going to make it past a certain age," she added.

Rojas thrived until high school - when she learned that she was undocumented. That lead to her being depressed and dropping out.

"I just knew I couldn't do things that people my age were doing, like getting a license," Rojas said.

She was approved for the program and is now one of the thousands of so-called Dreamers in Pennsylvania.

"There are roughly 160,000 undocumented Pennsylvanians," said Kang. "There are close to 5,000 DACA recipients in Pennsylvania."

Those Dreamers are now waiting to see if Congress comes up with a solution. Wednesday, U.S. Senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would help Dreamers create a pathway to citizenship.

The House also drafted similar legislation this week as part of a proposed spending bill.

Rojas re-enrolled in high school and even founded a nonprofit. She committed herself to college - where she was first charged international tuition at the Community College of Philadelphia.

She alternated between work and school to pay for her education.

"I had to go to school, take one class, pay it off and then take time off, save a little bit more," said Rojas.

Now working as a paralegal, Rojas hopes to go to law school.

She balances it all while encouraging her younger siblings born in the U.S.

Rojas hopes they'll take advantage of the path they have as she tries to carve out her own.

"I always remind them being a citizen is a privilege," she said.

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