Hitting close to home: A Kent State student’s DACA experience

DACA Illustration1

 Editor’s note: To protect the student and his family, The Kent Stater has changed Adriny’s name.

“I get to go to school and get an education, live my dreams … contribute to the economy by paying taxes and everything else. The best way to describe (DACA) was just like ‘this is what being treated like a human being feels like’,” Adriny Hordiyenko said as he reflected on his time in the U.S.

Hordiyenko is a “Dreamer” through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an executive order enacted in 2012 under the Obama administration.

He is also a Kent State student.

The Trump administration announced Sept. 5 that DACA will end in six months, unless Congress turns it into law. There’s been multiple attempts, including the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act.

The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001 and was rejected. It’s been reintroduced several times, but with no luck of passing.

DACA allows undocumented immigrants, who were minors at the time they were brought to the U.S., a two-year work visa without risk of deportation. Dreamers must reapply to renew their permits by Oct. 5 if they expire before March 5, 2018.

Hordiyenko is an undocumented immigrant and came to the U.S. in 1998 as a 13-year-old under a tourist visa with his family. Because of a lack of economic opportunity in his native country, his family came in search of jobs and an overall better life.

“We didn’t really know what the repercussions could be, (and we) didn’t really have anybody to give us legal advice as far as ‘OK, if you overstay your visa you’ll become undocumented, which is going to cause a domino effect, which you will not be able to get legal or get documented in proper documentation at a later date,’” Hordiyenko said.

The jobs his parents were qualified for became unobtainable because they were undocumented and didn’t have a path toward citizenship anymore.  

“I mean that was the goal: to kind of come here and just kind of do as much work with them to make money, provide the family better education (and) better education for me basically just to learn,” Hordiyenko said.

Since his parents remained undocumented, they worked for low-wage jobs even though they have degrees in economics and financing from their native country.

“They ended up working odd jobs, you know, getting paid under the table, getting paid minimum wage, or less on many occasions,” Hordiyenko said. “Whether it’s cleaning or whether it’s working like (at a) hotel working night shifts, and maybe you would have one day off work or maybe no days off.”

Before the Obama administration turned DACA into legislation, Hordiyenko had a rough time getting into college after graduation — small local schools tried to recruit him for football, but the plan came to a halt when schools realized he was undocumented.

When Hordiyenko and his father went to go fill out paperwork to apply to schools, he had to leave his social security number blank.

“They said basically, ‘We can’t help you, there’s nothing we can do because the school system and because the government checks every student in the database to make sure they’re here properly allowed to be there,’” Hordiyenko said.

It took Hordiyenko 10 years until he could finally get into college with the help of DACA.

Hordiyenko recently renewed his application with DACA in January of this year, allowing him to stay and work in the country until 2019.

“It gave me an opportunity to feel more secure and be able to pay taxes, and to be able to go to school and basically get my life back on track after a 10-year delay,” Hordiyenko said. “I want to graduate, get my degree and we’ll see from there. I mean honestly, like I try not to think too far ahead.”

Since the Trump administration made the announcement, Hordiyenko said he’s taking it day by day until graduation, but it still doesn’t stop the nerve-wracking feeling that he could, one day, be deported.

He hopes Congress will pass something fast to ensure all Dreamers capture what they came here to do: live the American dream.

“It’s kind of like a video game; once you get to a checkpoint, the game saves, then you go onto the next level and the next one,” Hordiyenko said. “I know graduation is right on the horizon, so I’m just kind of hoping to get there.”

Resources for Dreamers

Even though DACA could potentially end in six months, there are local resources that can help Dreamers move forward.

Karen Moss, an immigration attorney and partner at the Cleveland-based full service immigration law firm Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper, LLC, called the decision to rescind DACA heartless.

“It’s not their fault they were brought here,” Moss said, referring to DACA recipients. “The decision wasn’t theirs.”

Moss, whose law firm has worked to register many people with DACA, called the recipients “a very sympathetic group.”

“They are children, many of them, or they at least came as children,” Moss said. “Many of them didn’t speak English when they arrived.”

Counties under the Diocese of Cleveland:

  • Cuyahoga
  • Ashland
  • Geauga
  • Lake
  • Lorain
  • Medina
  • Summit
  • Wayne

Kent State Dreamers have a number of options to consider while moving forward, said Camille Gill, the managing attorney for immigration legal services at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland.

“We are encouraging anyone with DACA to get a consult to see if there’s another option,” Gill said.

Many Dreamers still have a 30-day window to renew their status.

Catholic Charities will expedite the requests of any Dreamer eligible for renewal, Gill said.

Gill also encouraged college students to evaluate their fields of study. She said students might want to consider changing their major to a field more likely to offer work visas.

Saron Rivera, a junior Spanish literature, culture and translation major, has three close friends in the U.S. under DACA.

“It’s scary because they’re my best friends. They’re basically sisters,” Rivera said. “I’ve known them since I was little and to see their hopes completely crushed, (I) can’t explain it.”

Gill said Dreamers in search of legal consult should not go to just any attorney, but should seek an immigration attorney. Alternatively, Gill said many nonprofits have accredited representatives certified to offer similar services.

The immigration legal services program at Catholic Charities offers legal services at about a quarter of the cost of most attorneys, Gill said. The organization also offers payment plans.

“We really don’t want to turn people away if they can’t pay our fee,” Gill said.

Counties under the Diocese of Youngstown:

  • Ashtabula
  • Columbiana
  • Mahoning
  • Portage
  • Stark
  • Trumbull

Rivera’s friends are just now reaping the benefits of DACA.

“One of my friends just started college because of (DACA). He was so excited, he sent me pictures of his first day of school,” Rivera said. “Ending DACA is going to end all these great opportunities that they have.”

Despite her friends’ current devastation, Rivera said she still believes there is hope.

Through social media support and citywide protests, Rivera said “you can’t help but feel a little bit of hope and that you’re supported, because you know you’re not alone.”

Moss and Rivera both encouraged citizens to reach out to congressmen and local representatives.

“I think the vast majority of people in this country recognize that these are not the bad guys,” Gill said. “The Catholic Church intends to keep fighting (this) battle, and protect (this) population.”

Carrie George is the editor of Luna Negra. Contact her at [email protected]

Jenna Kuczkowski is the managing editor of the Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Lydia Taylor is the editor of the Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]