Finding time to chat with 19-year-old Mirna Lozano can be tricky.
She works 40 hours a week at a country club, and she’s taking 15 credit hours this semester at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) in Lexington. And sometimes, she even squeezes in a bit of time to help her family with work on a tobacco farm.
The Plantory, a nonprofit organization in Lexington, has raised nearly $5,000 as of early this week to help Kentuckians pay for their DACA renewals, the federal program that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the country when they were children to work and go to school.
Lozano is a recipient of the Plantory’s program. She was able to get the funds needed to pay the $495 renewal fee as well as additional funds to help pay for a lawyer.
“It’s a blessing,” Lozano said of the fund.
Qualifying for the now rescinded DACA program has helped Lozano explore a career path far away from the tobacco farm where her family works. She’s studying Spanish education and early childhood education. She plans to transfer to the University of Kentucky.
Lozano said she and her younger sister, also a DACA recipient, pay about $1,400 combined each month in school fees.
“I was able to not worry and stress,” said Lozano. She said the money from the fund will stretch well beyond this month.
The Trump administration announced on September 5 that DACA, implemented by President Obama in 2012, would be phased out by March 5, 2018. No new applications will be accepted and the deadline for certain renewal applications is October 5.
Those eligible for the DACA program could stay in the country for two years without the fear of being deported. Recipients can also get a social security number, driver’s license, a work permit and enroll in school. DACA does not offer a path for permanent residency nor is it a legal immigration status.
Lozano is from Mexico and has lived in Kentucky for 15 years. Now 19, she refers to herself as a DREAMer. The DREAM Act, or Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, would’ve created a path for young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to become permanent residents. It was introduced in the Senate in 2001 and has repeatedly stalled in Congress.
Erin Howard is director of Latino Outreach and Student Support services at BCTC in Lexington. Howard has watched other states and organizations assisting DACA recipients with renewals, like Rhode Island and California. Though people on DACA arrive as children, Howard points out that many are older now and have started their own families here.
“For many of them that are on the older side of this DACA generation, if you will, that are in their early to mid-30s now — they have small children in the United States,” Howard said. She collaborated with the Plantory for the Bluegrass DACA Fund to help Kentuckians.
“This renewal program itself is important so we can help keep families together,” she said.
This is certainly the case for Mirna Lozano and her family. She lives in Lexington with her parents, her sister, and her younger brother, who’s a U.S. Citizen.