She was sitting at David W. Mullins Library on the night of Sept. 5 trying her best to focus on studying, but her mind was in another place. She saw a text message from her brother, telling her the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals had been revoked. She was afraid and speechless.
UA graduate student Alix Montoya-Beltran came to the U.S. with her family in 2003 when she was 10 years old from Mexico City, Mexico, she said.
“I had no idea we were coming,” Montoya-Beltran said.
Montoya-Beltran and her family would travel to the U.S. a lot to visit relatives and remembered that one day her mom told her, “‘Hey, we are going to visit your uncle again,’ and we jumped on a plane,” she said.
Montoya-Beltran started noticing that their stay was too long to be a vacation, and one day her mom told her she was going to go to school in Rogers, she said.
For a while, Montoya-Beltran did not feel any different from other students, but that changed when she started high school, she said.
Montoya-Beltran has five cousins who were born in the U.S., and they were all able to get jobs and their drivers licenses. When Montoya-Beltran asked her mom when she could do the same, her mom told her she could not, and that she was different, she said.
When Montoya-Beltran was 18, she asked her mom why should could not drive, and her mom told her that if she was pulled over by a police officer, she would be deported.
The day DACA was announced, Montoya-Beltran had never felt happier in her life, she said.
“All I could think was, ‘Oh my god, I can drive now. I can work,’” Montoya-Beltran said. “I was so excited to have a work permit and know that I could contribute and do everything I was told for so long that I couldn’t do. It felt so unreal.”
Montoya-Beltran started college at the Northwest Arkansas Community College in 2011 and transferred to the UofA in 2013. She became a graduate student in 2016, she said.
Montoya-Beltran was not surprised about DACA’s removal, and she “knew this was coming for awhile,” she said.
Montoya-Beltran and her brother’s DACA permits expire in December and they both applied for a renewal. Montoya-Beltran’s brother’s permit has been renewed, and she is waiting for hers, she said.
DACA recipients whose permits expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 must apply for a renewal by Oct. 5. The UA School of Law is providing free legal advice to those DACA recipients.
When DACA was rescinded Sept. 5, Montoya-Beltran’s brother texted her the news as she studied outside Mullins Library, she said.
“When I took off my headphones, I went back into this campus reality,” Montoya-Beltran said. “Everybody is studying. Everybody is living their life. It was really sad that these are just typical college students doing their thing while I’m over here not knowing what’s going to happen to me.”
President Donald Trump dismantled DACA, a program developed in 2012 under former president Barack Obama. DACA is administrative relief that protects eligible people from deportation who came to the U.S. when they were children, and it allows them to have work permits.
Almost 800,000 people have received work permits through DACA since it was created, according to data released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
UA Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz released a statement Sept. 1 stating his support for the program.
“In light of current conversations, the UofA believes strongly that the state of Arkansas, and the greater national and global societies are strengthened by educated men and women,” Steinmetz said.
That includes students who were brought to the U.S as children and have grown up in Arkansas, Steinmetz said.
“Their attendance doesn't take anything away from any other student,” Steinmetz said. “In fact, their presence enriches our community. We urge the continuation of federal and state laws and policies that support their ability to pursue higher education.”