QUEENS — Protected from deportation under the DACA program, starting a career as an electrical engineer is one of the many things Johnny Zamora has accomplished while living in East Elmhurst.
“In high school I graduated salutatorian, which is number two. I didn’t make number one, but number two,” Zamora explained. “I gave a speech at my graduation, got a couple of awards graduation night. And after that I went to work in a restaurant to make some money for college.”
He was only five-years-old when he and his family emigrated from Ecuador. He’s one of about 30,000 DACA recipients in the city, also known as Dreamers.
But nine years after the Obama Administration created DACA, Dreamers like Zamora still fear being deported. They have to reapply every two years. The program was threatened under the Trump Administration and continues to face legal challenges. And there is still no path to citizenship.
“It’s a constant, you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” said Zamora.
President Biden does support DACA and a path to citizenship as a part of overall immigration reform.
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Dream and Promise Act. It would provide a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and others with temporary immigration protections. The House already approved it, but it's unclear what the Senate will do.
“There’s no reason why not. We’re talking about individuals that have no serious criminal history, they’ve been here for many years. A lot of them are professionals. Many of them are either college students, professionals,” said immigration attorney Elizabeth Cordoba.
Meanwhile, Johnny Zamora continues to wait and dream of becoming an American citizen.
“It would mean a lot. This country is like no other country that ever existed, so for me it would mean a lot,” Zamora said.