Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Tuesday, an action that could affect roughly 800,000 protected recipients.
The Department of Homeland Security is expected to say the decision will not take effect until March 5, according to the news website Axios, giving Congress six months to come up with an alternative to the program, which was designed to temporarily shield from deportation some immigrants living in the US illegally who were brought to the country as children.
That leaves the fate of people protected under DACA unclear.
Shortly before the formal announcement, Daishi Tanaka, a junior at Harvard University who is protected under DACA, spoke with Business Insider. He is deeply concerned about what the future will hold.
"I'm walking into a future that's so dark and shadowed that I can't see what's in front of me," Tanaka told Business Insider. "It's as if everything I've been working for could be erased in a second, and it might be." Business Insider spoke with Tanaka earlier in the year and contacted him again before Sessions' announcement.
Created by President Barack Obama in an executive order in 2012, DACA provided protection from deportation, a Social Security number so people can work, and, depending on the state, in-state-tuition eligibility.
The potential disappearance of these protections has thrown young people, many of whom do not know any other home than the US, into a heightened state of worry. Tanaka, whose father is from Japan and mother is from the Philippines, arrived in the US as a 6-year-old.
Fear surrounding the future is a hallmark of Tanaka's experience growing up in the US. But that worry has now intensified just days after he started classes as a junior at Harvard.
"It's something I've always felt throughout my life, but it has definitely heightened now — this constant sense of what's going to happen next and is anything that I do worth it," he said. "It affects students like me here greatly because if we can't work after college, if we can't work now, if we can be deported, what's it all for?"
Harvard provides some supports for its students living in the country illegally. Its Immigration and Refugee Law Clinic hired a lawyer to provide legal counsel to students. Harvard's president, Drew Faust, has also advocated preserving DACA. Still, Tanaka thinks the university could do more to alleviate the anxieties of students.
"Harvard University as an entire university with its money, prestige, and legacy definitely should do a lot more," he said.
Tanaka, who is codirector of a student-led immigration organization called Act on a Dream, has focused his efforts on advocacy on campus and on trying to remind himself that he belongs. He said he had received an outpouring of support from friends around the US amid reports that Trump would end DACA.
"All of that reminds me that home is not a label on a paper — home is people," Tanaka said. "Home is wherever you go, as long as you're loved, and I think that has helped combat all of this uncertainty."
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