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Daring to Dream

In June 2012, US president Barack Obama announced a radical new policy to deal with one of the country's most vexing problems - the presence of millions of undocumented migrants living in the shadows but constituting a vital part of the American economy. Named the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA, in short), the legislation allowed people who were brought to the US illegally as children to apply for two-year, renewable deferrals of deportation and to gain work permits. At the time of the executive order's launch the Pew Research Center estimated that some 1.7 million people were eligible to apply.

Today, there are over 200,000 DACA recipients working on the frontlines to meet America's essential needs as the country faces the Covid-19 pandemic. While these DACA recipients have been putting their lives on the line for their adoptive country, their right to stay has come under threat. In 2017, the Trump administration tried to end the DACA programme but a Supreme Court challenge in 2020 decided that rescinding would be unlawful. The incoming Biden administration immediately moved to reinstate DACA.

The fate of undocumented migrants in the US, thought to number around 10.7 million (or 3.3% of the population), remains a political football at the whim of each incoming administration. The American Dream and Promise Act, a law which would give DACA recipients legal status, was voted through the House of Representatives in March 2021 but could get stuck in the Senate which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky explored the daily lives of undocumented migrants working on the frontlines in Los Angeles, the epicentre of the virus in California. Their project creates a space to share their stories in their own words. Not only are these people living with the anxiety of bringing the virus home to their families but, being undocumented, they are putting themselves and their families at risk of deportation.

You can view a short multimedia video about this story here.
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