‘It’s crush­ing’: A D.C. col­lege stu­dent from Guyana wor­ries about the end of im­mi­gra­tion pro­gram for ‘dream­ers’

Weekend Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By Su­san Svr­luga

Sad­hana

Singh is a se­nior at Trin­ity Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity. She was born in Guyana and moved to the United States as a teenager.

Sad­hana Singh didn’t go to the rally at the White House Tues­day; she was study­ing be­fore class.

But it was hard to con­cen­trate, with all the mes­sages she was get­ting from pro­fes­sors and friends won­der­ing if Pres­i­dent Trump would end the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, won­der­ing if she would be able to le­gally fin­ish her col­lege de­gree or if she could be de­ported.

“I have been brac­ing my­self,” she said Tues­day. “I al­ways thought it would be can­celed.”

But when she heard the at­tor­ney gen­eral ac­tu­ally make the an­nounce­ment, she said, “It was crush­ing. Be­cause they put an end date on it.”

Singh is one of more than 100 stu­dents at Trin­ity Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity with pro­vi­sional le­gal sta­tus through DACA. They now make up about 10 per­cent of the pri­vate school’s en­roll­ment — enough to have a pro­found im­pact on cam­pus cul­ture. The 31-year-old se­nior is part of the first group that will grad­u­ate in spring.

For Trin­ity’s pres­i­dent, Pa­tri­cia McGuire, the de­ci­sion to be one of the schools part­ner­ing with TheDream. US schol­ar­ship pro­gram was an easy one, a moral im­per­a­tive. “It is so con­sis­tent with our mis­sion,” she said. “Real Catholic so­cial jus­tice.” And de­spite the ex­pense, it has ben­e­fited the school. “They are ex­tra­or­di­nary, out­stand­ing stu­dents,” she said. “Al­most all are on the dean’s list, very prac­ti­cal and very mo­ti­vated.”

As ac­tivists, law­mak­ers and at­tor­neys pre­pared to fight, Singh kept pre­par­ing for her French and En­ergy and In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs classes that after­noon. “I’m over­whelmed,” she said, “by all the feel­ings stream­ing in.”

It had been such a long jour­ney to col­lege.

When the tourist visa her par­ents had to visit the Unit- ed States ex­pired, she knew. At 13, she took care of a lot of pa­per­work for the fam­ily, be­cause of her par­ents’ lack of ed­u­ca­tion. And so, even as she mar­veled at the scale and ex­panse of ev­ery­thing in the United States — the high­ways, the stores, the pos­si­bil­i­ties all so much more vast than any­thing at home in Guyana — she worried.

But they stayed.

And t he l onger t hey stayed, the more she learned about the prom­ise of this place. “I came to Amer­ica, and this whole world opened to me that I never saw be­fore,” she said. “All these op­por­tu­ni­ties — all these things.”

No one knew her se­cret in the small town in Ge­or­gia where they set­tled. The thing she wanted most, she said, was just to blend in, to be Amer­i­can. She faked a lo­cal ac­cent. She picked an Amer­i­can-sound­ing name and told ev­ery­one to just call her Ash­ley.

Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, Singh fi­nally told a few friends that she was not in the coun­try le­gally, and one of their par­ents hired her. Her fa­ther, who had been a chauf­feur in Guyana and kept his in­ter­na­tional driver’s li­cense, drove her to work. At the end of the day, he drove her home.

She ques­tioned why her par­ents had left Guyana, and she thought about go­ing back there her­self, even though it seemed en­tirely for­eign to her. In that cul­ture, she wouldn’t be ex­pected to con­tinue her ed­u­ca­tion, ei­ther. But at least she would be there le­gally. She could drive, do things, travel with­out fear.

Then the DACA pro­gram was created. She ap­plied im­me­di­ately — it seemed too good to be true. And a co- worker told her about a new schol­ar­ship he had heard about on the ra­dio.

“It was in­cred­i­ble,” she said. “It was a sal­va­tion.”

Her par­ents had been hes­i­tant about col­lege — it wasn’t some­thing they had thought much about. They needed her in­come, and they were sur­prised to think of her mov­ing out of their home. But then they saw how happy she was and be­gan to un­der­stand that she was do­ing this to help the whole fam­ily, by open­ing up much greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for her­self.

She has DACA pro­tec­tion un­til Oc­to­ber 2018, so she hopes to be able to grad­u­ate. Even if she had to leave the coun­try to work, she would be grate­ful to have her de­gree. Know­ing now that she has six months gives her time to plan, she said, al­though she has no idea what she’ll do. And she has lit­tle con­fi­dence that Congress will be able to help.

As she watched the at­tor­ney gen­eral Tues­day, she had a sud­den urge to scream at him. “The con­sti­tu­tional over­reach, the pol­i­tics of the sit­u­a­tion. … It’s hu­man be­ings that are in­volved.”

As she heard from friends worried about how they would sup­port their fam­i­lies, she thought about how many peo­ple were af­fected, vastly more than the hun­dreds of thousands of ben­e­fi­cia­ries of DACA. “It was re­ally dev­as­tat­ing now to pull the rug [out] from … un­der us.”

“It pulled us into Amer­i­can so­ci­ety,” she said. “We were there all along — but we couldn’t par­tic­i­pate.”

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