HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Ten years after DACA, the children of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. are watching closely as an appellate court prepares to hear arguments on the Obama-era immigration program.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to consider Texas' lawsuit challenging Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on July 6.
In the meantime, the hopes of Dreamers across the country hang in the balance as they await a solution to gaining permanent residency status.
"I know (DACA) is not enough and my dream is to become a U.S citizen, to be fully protected," Juan Carlos Cerda told ABC13. Cerda works as a deputy campaign manager for the American Business Immigration Coalition.
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Thursday, ABC13 hosted a town hall gathering leaders in law, activism and business to discuss the tug of war over Dreamers and their fight to secure a legal pathway to citizenship.
Joining Cerda on the town hall panel were:
- Samantha Uriel Serna, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) attorney
- Stan Marek, CEO of Marek Construction
ABC13 extended panel invitations to multiple conservative and Republican Party leaders, but did not receive a response.
The town hall dispelled some myths about who Dreamers are, their contributions to the U.S., and also highlighted what's ultimately at stake.
"We have a worker shortage," Marek said. "In my experience with Dreamers and immigrants is that they come here to work. They don't want welfare, they just want to work."
For much of his life, Cerda was living as an undocumented person in the U.S. until DACA came into the picture.
He said without the program, he never would have seen his dreams realized, from studying at Yale to helping to impact students in the classroom.
"I didn't give up on my dreams of working in education. I studied and worked hard and...thanks to the DACA program, I was able to serve my community as a Kindergarten teacher," Cerda said.
Last August, a federal judge in Houston ruled DACA was unlawful, saying President Barack Obama exceeded his authority when he created the program in 2012.
The ruling prevented the Department of Homeland Security from approving new applications, but allowed immigrants enrolled in DACA to stay and work in the U.S.
"We will be in court arguing on behalf of DACA recipients, asking the 5th Circuit to overturn the decision of the district court," Serna said.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 2.3 million Dreamers residing in the U.S. Out of this number, only 611,400 have DACA and were allowed to renew their permits after the court's ruling.
The remaining 1.6 million immigrants have no protection from deportation and are denied the opportunity to work legally in the U.S.
Viewers can watch the town hall anywhere they stream Eyewitness News, including on Roku and Fire TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."