Undocumented Student Opens Up About DACA struggles

Despite living in U.S. for 18 years, student looking for permanent residency

FAYETTEVILLE, AR -- - UPDATE: Previous versions of this story referred to Iris Aquino as an "illegal immigrant." The wording has since been changed to "undocumented immigrant." Aquino entered the country with a B1/B2 Visa, meaning she went through immigration in order to cross the border.

Stories of undocumented immigrants are happening right here in our neighborhoods, communities and schools.

One Northwest Arkansas student was denied DACA assistance that would help her in her studies at the University of Arkansas. 

DACA benefits allow children that were brought into the U.S. before their 16th birthday to live and work in the U.S. legally.

But the application to earn that right is highly competitive and few students will actually receive it.

Its a struggle one University of Arkansas student opened up to our cameras about -- take a look.

"We are more than just dreamers. We are fighters. And we're determined to achieve our goals," said Iris Aquino, a UA student who was denied DACA benefits.

Undocumented immigrant and U of A Sophomore Iris Aquino has been fighting since she first entered the U.S. almost 18 years ago.

"It's like you overcome one obstacle and then another obstacle comes," Aquino said.

She is one of many Razorback students that attend the school despite not having a social security number.

However, she says her journey is a bit more difficult -- after being denied "deferred action for childhood arrivals" benefits. 

"It was heartbreaking because it was a door for me to go to college," Aquino said.  

Those benefits would allow her to work legally.

On top of that, her status as an undocumented immigrant keeps her from receiving financial aid or university scholarships. 

"When it comes to DACA, its not just a blessing for themselves, its a blessing for everyone around them because now their family has a form of hope," said Magdalena Arroyo, the LatinX Outreach Coordinator at the University of Arkansas.

She says her only hope is to share her story with our cameras -- and be the face of a problem many like her deal with daily.

"Even if they are comfortable sharing it with you, it is very much a sign of bravery in our community to even share the fact that you yourself might be undocumented," Arroyo said.

Aquino hopes this will empower others to fight for change as well.

"As Arkansas residents, we have to start locally with our representatives by going to them, speaking to them and sharing our stories that we are not criminals, we want to help and contribute to this country," Aquino said.

The university was unable to give me an exact number of how many students actually receive DACA benefits, but they did tell me the number is less than 20.

So students like Aquino will chip away at their degrees, paying out-of-state tuition and international fees, unit by unit, in whatever way they can afford.

 


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