In her pursuit of higher education, Ewaoluwa Ogundana is facing new challenges.
“Knowing the number of barriers that I faced, and my parents have faced in the past almost 17 years now, simply just being able to live in this country means a lot to me and my family to obtain a degree,” she said.
Born in Nigeria, Ogundana’s family moved to the United States when she was 4 years old. Now a senior political science student at Trinity Washington University, Ogundana is considered a DREAMer, someone that was brought to America unlawfully as a child but is allowed to work and study here without fear of being deported. Those fears, however, are becoming more of a reality.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the DACA program earlier this year, there’s still uncertainty about permanent protections and pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services continues to reject all initial DACA applications and is limiting renewals to one-year. Now, there’s added stress brought on by the pandemic.
“DREAMers have been more significantly impacted by the coronavirus in large part because of either their own status or that of their parents,” said Candy Marshall, president of TheDream.us, the nation’s largest college access and success program for undocumented students.
“As a result of this pandemic they have increasing anxiety about their responsibilities,” she said.
Marshall’s team recently released a study that shows the employment rate among DREAMers dropped nearly 30% since the start of the pandemic. She added that 70% of those students reported feeling much more anxious about their legal status since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.
“These are young people in their 20s, and they carry this incredible sense of responsibility to succeed,” Marshall. “Their families gave up everything to get them into this country.”
While in the U.S., Ogundana plans to overcome these fears through higher education and applying to graduate school to learn about public policy.
“As a dreamer, it’s extremely important because it’s pretty much the connector between where I am now and entering my full career,” she said.