Monica Lazaro has defied all odds. After graduating from Coral Gables High School, her 40-year-old mom died of cancer. Students organized a fundraiser and with the help of an anonymous donor she was able to study biology at Miami-Dade College and Florida International University.
Lazaro is working as a research associate at Nova Southeastern University. She is studying chronic fatigue syndrome. She made her dad proud when she received a security clearance to work at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The future of the 24-year-old aspiring doctor could soon be derailed. She is among the estimated 800,000 migrants waiting for President Donald Trump to make a decision that could send them back to the shadows of illegality and a life in fear now that the government knows everything about them.
"Keep your hopes up! Keep fighting! Let's be strong," Lazaro said to a crowd of students and activists during a recent conference at Miami Dade College.
After gang members threatened her dad's life, she and her brothers traveled with their parents from San Pedro Sula to Miami on tourist visas that later expired. Her mom, who was a domestic worker, and her dad, who was a construction worker, talked to them about the importance of not talking to anyone about their immigration status.
Lazaro lived with a fearful secret until President Barack Obama's five-year-old executive order for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals changed her life. After paying a $495 application fee, she was able to get a temporary DACA card and she was no longer undocumented.
As of last year, DACA made it possible for her and tens of thousands of others in Florida to live without the fear of deportation, obtain a driver's license, qualify for in-state college tuition and secure better jobs. The program only applies to migrants who moved to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and have continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
Trump is under pressure to keep the Central American crisis out of the U.S., where conservatives believe this can be done with a border wall and tougher immigration enforcement. More than 100 law professors signed a letter to Trump arguing DACA was legal.
Trump can abolish DACA or refuse to defend it in court to put an end to it.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions opposes DACA. Attorneys generals from 10 states demanded the suspension of DACA and threatened fo file suit unless Trump begins to dismantle the program by Sept. 5. Sessions would be responsible for defending DACA if they did.
Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American Republican, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat, are encouraging others to defend DACA and push for the Dream Act of 2017.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, introduced the bill in the senate July 20. The legislation aims to minors who have been continuously present for at least four years before the law's enactment with a path toward a green card and U.S. Citizenship.
An army of Immigration advocates such as the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund's Mike Fernandez, Americans for Immigrant Justice's Cheryl Little, Stand Up for Dreamers and The Florida Immigrant Coalition are doing what they can to provide DACA recipients with support.
"We are just making sure they feel protected and supported," said Melissa Taveras with the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
Local authorities and immigration advocates were reminding parents who are afraid that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could take children from schools that the prospect is highly unlikely.
During the Wednesday meeting in downtown Miami, Lazaro spoke for herself and other DACA recipients from around the nation who were born in South Korea, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Philippines, Argentina, Jamaica, India, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Pakistan, Poland, Chile, Nicaragua and Nigeria.
While they wait, Lazaro asked the public to call their elected representatives and ask them to support a path to citizenship for students like her. She was planning on attending a vigil from 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when Trump makes his decision Local 10 News Ross Palombo will be informed and there will be a press conference to answer questions. A senior administration official told Reuters Trump was expected to rescind DACA as early as Friday.
"There are a lot of components that need to be looked at," Sanders said.