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On its 12th anniversary, DACA is on the ropes as election looms

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Monarch butterflies, passionate activists, and "we're here to stay" signs have all become emblematic of marches and protests calling on presidential administrations to defend DACA recipients from deportation during the past 12 years.  

Saturday marks the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was established by the Obama administration in 2012. 

"I never felt so powerful. I never felt so humbled. I never felt so happy," said Greisa Martinez Rosas, director of United We Dream as she recalls receiving news on DACA's announcement in 2012. 

As a 7-year-old child, Rosas crossed the Rio Grande River in the U.S.-Mexico border along with her parents. She lived as an undocumented immigrant in Texas and later went on to work as a community organizer, gathering support to call on the Obama administration to protect Dreamers. 

After DACA was rolled out, however, Rosas said she waited about a year out of fear to apply. By giving her personal information, she believed immigration officials would deport her undocumented mother. 

"I remember getting the work permit in my hand," Rosas said. "It was a bit anticlimactic, because it's just a piece of paper. It's a piece of plastic and it was the same feeling when I got my social security number. It's just numbers on a piece of paper but then they mean so much." 

Rosas' work permit allowed her to leave her job selling cars to become a fulltime advocate with nonprofit immigrant advocacy group United We Dream. 

It's a job she still holds 12 years later, calling on legal protections for DACA recipients as the program was declared unlawful in 2021, and its future remains uncertain amid an ongoing legal fight.

Like Rosas, Astrid Silva, a Dreamer with immigrant advocacy group Dream Big Nevada, became a face to the DACA movement as a community organizer beginning 2009 — working closely with elected officials to advocate for the needs of those who were brought into the U.S. as children. 

"I can still remember to this day the excitement, and it was all this optimism of what will come with this," Silva recalls the day DACA was announced. 

Silva was 4 years old when she crossed the U.S-Mexico border illegally with her parents, and can recall from a very young age that she didn't share her classmates' privileges. 

"I remember I dreaded my 18th birthday so much," Silva said, recalling that she was not able to obtain an official government ID or license like most of her friends. 

Now, Silva reminds those so-called "Dreamers" to not take their status for granted. 

"My ask is that we not give up on it, that we not settle for a two-year temporary," Silva says. "We need to get the permanent fix." 

Rosas and Silva are only two out of the over 500,000 people actively benefiting from the DACA policy today. They help to make up the handful of Dreamers who have organized their communities for over 12 years, delivering their pleas to Washington lawmakers. 

"No matter what the outcome of the election is, I'm here to stay," Rosas said. "This is my home, and I have to keep fighting."

With immigration among the top issues for voters heading into the November election, both Republicans and Democrats are campaigning with their proposed policies regarding undocumented immigrants and the future of DACA. 

President Biden last week issued an executive order restricting asylum claims for undocumented immigrants along the southern border. Sources also told CBS News Friday that the Biden administration is preparing an immigration relief program that would offer work permits and deportation protections to unauthorized immigrants married to U.S. citizens, as long as they have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years.   

Those sources said the Biden administration is also preparing a second plan that would streamline the process for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants to request waivers that would make it easier for them to obtain temporary visas, such as H-1B visas for high-skilled workers.

Ahead of DACA's 12th anniversary, the Biden-Harris campaign released a Spanglish video titled "Here to Stay." It includes a compilation of Dreamers contrasting Mr. Biden's immigration record with that of former President Donald Trump.

The campaign also published a second ad Saturday titled "Standing with Dreamers," in which Vice President Kamala Harris underscores her commitment to protecting Dreamers, while condemning Trump's immigration policies. 

"The former president when it comes to immigration, man, his policies are cruel and ineffective," Harris claims. 

In 2017, when Trump announced the termination of DACA, he issued a statement saying he does "not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."

At the time, Trump said he looked forward to working with Congress to address immigration issues. Now, as part of his reelection campaign, Trump has promised to begin mass deportations upon taking office. 

"We will begin the largest domestic deportation operation in the history of our country," Trump told his crowd on June 6 during a Turning Point Action town hall in Arizona. 

Proposals for mass deportation currently have bipartisan support among registered voters, according to the latest CBS News poll. A nearly six in 10 majority of voters say they would favor, in principle, a new government program to deport all undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. A similarly sized majority would have local law enforcement try to identify those living in the U.S. illegally.   

Camilo Montoya-Galvez, Anthony Salvanto and Avril Silva contributed to this report

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