DACA students are worried. The clock is ticking

Trump's twists and turns on DACA
Trump's twists and turns on DACA

Luis Ursua was in between classes at Arizona State University late Wednesday when he heard about a potential deal between President Trump and Democrats over DACA.

Ursua should have welcomed the news. Negotiations had begun over how to protect nearly 800,000 immigrants who have sought a safeguard against deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But he was not holding his breath.

"Actually, I'm pessimistic," Ursua said. "What we're getting are vague comments about a deal."

Last week, the Trump administration announced it was putting an end to the DACA program altogether and gave Congress six months to enact an alternative. But then it backtracked.

And on Thursday, Democrats and the White House offered up confusing messaging on DACA negotiations. Democratic leaders said Trump was moving closer to a deal on DACA. Yet, Trump tweeted the same day that no deal had been reached.

"There's no civility with our situation. As of right now, we still have the threat of deportation," Ursua said.

He says he's frustrated -- and feels the clock ticking.

luis ursua sign

Related: DACA med student: 'I woke up and realized this wasn't a bad dream'

Ursua, 23, just started his senior year at Arizona State University, where he majors in biochemistry and attends classes on a full scholarship.

His DACA status expires in a year. If Congress doesn't pass legislation to protect Dreamers, the name given to the young adults who are caught in legal limbo over their status, he may get deported to Mexico -- a country he knows next to nothing about.

Ursua was only 5 when he and his parents came to the United States. They overstayed their visitor visas and settled in Rio Rico, Arizona, a small town 15 minutes from the border with Mexico.

Throughout his childhood, Ursua hid the fact he was undocumented from teachers and friends.

"I was afraid it would get my family in trouble," he said.

His own parents, who are still undocumented, revealed his status to teachers. "They did it behind my back because they really wanted to find a way to get me to college," he said. Aware of his situation, teachers were able to eventually help Ursua find financial means, despite his status, to pursue college.

When DACA was enacted through executive order by President Obama in 2012, Ursua immediately applied. He then worked two jobs to save money. A year later, he had saved enough -- and scored a Pima Aztec scholarship -- to go to Pima community college for two years. He transferred to Arizona State University last fall on full scholarship from TheDream.US, an organization that provides scholarships to Dreamers.

But now, with the fate of his DACA status hanging in the balance, he's concerned he could lose everything he's been working so hard to achieve. He's trying not to think about the worst case scenario: not being able to finish school.

"I'm looking forward to graduate school and a career after that," he said. "I don't want to have to pause my entire life."

Related: These men and women will be out of work if Trump repeals DACA

Like Ursua, Manuela is cautious about her DACA status and her ability to remain permanently in the U.S.

"I don't want to get my hopes up about any deal," said Manuela, who asked that CNNMoney use only her first name.

Manuela, 22, is living the American Dream that her parents -- who brought her from Colombia when she was 11 -- had envisioned for her. She recently graduated from Miami Dade College with an associate's degree in dental hygiene. In January, she begins classes at Florida International University so she can complete her bachelor's degree. After that she plans to go to dental school.

But the last week has been stressful, leaving Manuela and many of her fellow DACA-status friends anxious about their futures.

"Some are dropping classes to save money because they don't know what will happen to them after six months," she said. "It's so unfair this abrupt decision to end DACA could stop us from continuing our education."

But Manuela's parents will not allow that to happen -- no matter how things pan out.

"Most parents of DACA students have sacrificed so much to give their kids a better future. They are very strict about education. Dropping out of school isn't an option for me," she said.

Lorena, who also asked to be referred to by first name only, was only 7 when her family came from Colombia.

Now 21, she's a DACA-status student in her final year at Florida International University, where she is attending classes on a full scholarship. In the spring, she will graduate with a degree in public relations and social media marketing.

Lorena worries that if DACA is reworked she may not be able to apply for a job after she graduates.

"If DACA ends permanently and the congress doesn't come up with another solution, I am afraid of not being able to work and continue my career and getting deported," she said. "I would go back into the shadows while I look for more options and try to find a solution to continue my life in the only country I know."

She's forcing herself to focus on school and life.

"I'm going to work extra hard to stay ahead of how I'm feeling right now," she said. "I have to live life as an optimist."

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