Houston woman still seeks DACA approval: 'This is the only country I know of'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- DACA supporters said a recent move by President Joe Biden's administration intended to protect immigrant youth is "some progress."

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has seen some legal challenges over the years. In fact, last year a Texas judge challenged DACA over an administrative violation in which the Biden administration is now responding.

With all the legal challenges, it is unnerving for people like Maria Munoz. Munoz and her two siblings moved to the U.S. when she was 4 years old.

"I grew up here my whole life, and this is the only country that I know of. I do love my country. I was born in Ecuador and my culture and everything, but I grew up here," she said.

DACA recipients could have applied for the program during the former President Barack Obama's administration. After legal challenges, the government stopped accepting new applicants in 2017, until a brief window opened back up in 2020. That's when Munoz and her siblings applied.

RELATED STORY: Texas judge's ruling against DACA program leaves clouded future for Dreamers

"All three of us applied at the same time last year in 2020. My brother and sister, they did get accepted. They did get approved," said Munoz.

Meanwhile, Munoz's application process was delayed. On top of that, that same year, her father became sick with COVID-19 and was hospitalized for six months. Days before Christmas, he passed away, and the window for new DACA recipients closed.

"It was pretty tough on us. Not having DACA has been tougher because, at least with DACA, I would be able to get a job, support my family and everything. But not having it, is just super frustrating," said Munoz.

As people like Munoz fight for DACA to accept new applicants, the Biden administration is responding to a legal challenge. A judge said the original program didn't hold public comment like it was supposed to in 2012.

"It is essentially a way of responding to a judge's ruling on one particular flaw in the program, which is that it was implemented without a comment period. No real changes. The conditions are the same. The qualifications are the same," said Tony Payan, the director at the Center for the U.S. and Mexico at Rice University's Baker Institute.

Munoz said she hopes that someday she and her siblings can get citizenship, and at the very least, she hopes she becomes a DACA recipient.

"I want to be able to drive and support my family and support this community," said Munoz.

SEE RELATED STORY: DACA recipient returns home to Texas after 6-month separation from baby and husband

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