‘It will be harder, but this will just give me more strength’: DACA participant says Trump won’t stall her dreams


Karla Estrada, a 26-year-old DACA participant, always knew the program was temporary. She’d braced herself for it and expected today’s decision. Still, she said it “hurt” Tuesday when Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration was rescinding the program that gave Estrada and many like her the “taste of the American life.”

“It was an illusion. It was like when you’re in the desert and you’re thirsty and drink from an oasis and then you realize it’s not real. It feels like DACA was an oasis when we were dehydrated in the middle of the dessert and now that illusion is gone.”

Estrada, who lives in Los Angeles where she works at a law firm, said the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program gave her the opportunity to work legally in a steady job related to her career. Estrada was brought illegally to the U.S. when she was 5 years old.


CHINO, CA. - AUGUST 22, 2015: The Estrada family poses for a portrait in their daughter's bedroom in their apartment in Chino on August 22, 2015. Mother Gloria, father Angel and their daughter Karla (CQ) share their differences about how they deal with being deported because they are undocumented. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Her work prospects are now uncertain; her work permit expires in October of next year.

Before she was accepted into the DACA program, she had to move from job to job and contended with low pay.

The end of DACA, however, doesn’t mean Estrada’s ambitions will come to a halt.

“I’m still going to study for my LSAT and take the test and apply to law school and, if I get accepted, I’m not going to stop pursuing my career,” she said. “I will go on with my life. It will be harder and more nerve-racking, but I’m going to be OK. Personally, I think I’m very resilient. DACA does not define me.”

Los Angeles has one of the deepest connections to the program because of its long history with immigration. Los Angeles County alone has the highest number of immigrants — 123,000 — who are immediately eligible for the program. Many of the young immigrant activists who staged sit-ins and acts of civil disobedience, which eventually helped lead to Obama’s program, also hail from the Los Angeles metropolitan area.


Estrada said the DACA decision will likely rile up immigrant youth who were not active in the movement because they benefited from the program.

“Now that it’s over, I think we can start actually fighting for something that is more permanent for ourselves and for the people who were not eligible for DACA,” she said. “This time we’ll do it right. We made a mistake in the past, only fighting for the young people. We are valuable, yet but not more than the rest of the population.”

She said it’s time to think beyond DACA.

“We don’t need DACA anymore. It’s gone. We cannot live like this… with scraps,” she said. “ I really hope that it’s going to be the beginning of something of a broader movement for our undocumented community to work together toward legislation, but not just for ourselves.”

Estrada said she and other activists won’t allow themselves to be used as “bargaining chips” for a stricter immigration enforcement.

“Hopefully this is a wake-up call for all of us,” she said. “I adopted ‘undocumented and unafraid’ in 2009. It won’t change. I won’t move from my house. I will keep working, like I did before DACA I will keep organizing. It will be harder, but this will just give me more strength.”