By Agatha So, Policy Analyst, UnidosUS
On September 5, the president announced that he would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since 2012, DACA has provided hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth with opportunities to get an education and a good job without fear of deportation. The president’s announcement suddenly placed the lives of nearly 800,000 workers, students, and homeowners in the United States in limbo. Now, gains that these young immigrants were able to make due to the program are in jeopardy.
Homeownership is one of the many gains DACA recipients have achieved since the program began. In a 2015 survey of more than 1,700 DACA recipients, more than half reported getting their first credit card, and 12 percent had a mortgage or had their name on their family’s lease. DACA opened up opportunities for young immigrants to establish a formal record of work and credit history with a social security number, which they used to help them qualify for a loan to buy their first home. For DACA homeowners, their first home purchase was a dream shared by their families, and an important step towards financial stability and building family wealth.
With the president’s decision five years later, more DACA recipients, like Miguel Carmona, are deciding to buy a home. Miguel is the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland. This past week, UnidosUS met with Miguel to discuss this very important financial decision.
UnidosUS: When did you apply for DACA? What was the first thing you did when you received DACA status?
Carmona: I applied when the program started in 2012. The forms were quite complex. Volunteers, who were supervised by a licensed immigration attorney at a local agency in Phoenix, Arizona, helped me fill out and complete the application. The first thing I did when I received DACA was to apply for a job. In Arizona, at that time, we weren’t yet allowed to get a driver’s license.
UnidosUS: What does DACA mean for you and your family’s financial well-being?
Carmona: What opponents of immigration don’t realize, is that we, as immigrants, when we come to the United States, are all in search of our dream. I think we [DACA recipients] are model immigrants: we speak the language, and love the culture. I want to invest, and I’m proud that I pay taxes. Talking about buying home is realizing another part of that American dream.
UnidosUS: Tell me about your goal to buy a home. Why now?
Carmona: Being a DREAMer has allowed me to think about buying a home not just for myself, but for my parents. My parents have been working all my life, and I would like to reward them. We are successful because of their work. Now, having DACA has allowed me to work on my family’s dream. My father wants to spend his Sundays at home enjoying a large family gathering. He needs a home big enough to have that. Where he lives now, it’s too small. Another reason why I would like to buy a home is that homeownership is a vehicle to building long-term wealth. This is a family dream, and it will create more wealth for all of us in the long-term.
UnidosUS: Do you think DACA gave you this chance?
Carmona: Absolutely, with the caveat that I have been fortunate to be able to create my own income. I used to work in sales, and now have a job that allows me to fulfill my passion for the ministry. However, even if I did not have DACA status, and the social security number, I would have bought a house. I would have bought my house much later in life.
UnidosUS: What’s next for you?
Carmona: One of my next steps is to get married, and then to start a family. That’s about five years down the road. I’m working on saving money, paying off my debt, and be ready when the time is right. For now, there’s time to invest in my parents and family’s dream. We’ll continue to dream together.
UnidosUS: Is there anything else to share?
Carmona: I’d like to send a message: It gets better. No one can make you feel inferior until you let them. For me and many people, this is still the greatest country in the world. Let’s make it great together.