Harvard student protected by DACA: 'Everything I've been working for could be erased in a second'

Daishi TanakaDaishi TanakaHarvard junior Daishi Tanaka is unsure what his future holds.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Tuesday, an action that will impact the roughly 800,000 protected recipients who were brought to the US illegally as children.

In a press release, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to say the decision will not affect people before March 5, 2018, so that “Congress can have time to deliver on appropriate legislative solutions,” according to Axios.

That leaves the fate of people currently 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 reached out to him again before Sessions’ announcement.

Created by 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 disappearance of these protections has thrown young people, many of whom know any other home than the US, into a heightened state of worry. Tanaka, whose father his from Japan and mother is from the Philippines, arrived in the US as a six-year-old.

Fear surrounding the future is a hallmark of Tanak’s experience growing up in the states. But that worry has intensified, just days after started his first day of 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?” he said.

Harvard provides some supports for its students. Its Immigration and Refugee Law Clinic hired an attorney to provide legal council to undocumented students. Harvard President Drew Faust has also been outspoken about the need to preserve DACA. Still, Tanaka thinks the university as a whole 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 co-director of a student-led immigration organisation called Act on a Dream, has focused his efforts on advocacy on campus, and on trying to reminding himself that he belongs. He said in the wake of reports Trump will end DACA, he’s received an outpouring of support from friends around the country.

“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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