CROOKSTON – Jazmin Guzman grew up believing she was no different from her friends and classmates. Often, she still feels that way.
Guzman, 23, lives in Crookston with her fiance and her dog. She was a manager at the Crookston Dollar Tree until it closed in August. She had hoped to go to culinary school before realizing college was out of reach, so she now is looking for new work. She would be happy with a job around food.
Now, she spends time baking for fun, taking care of her younger siblings and getting ready for her wedding.
Yet her immigration status rarely leaves her thoughts.
Guzman was born in Mexico, but was brought to the United States by her parents as a baby. She didn’t learn she wasn’t a U.S. citizen until she was a sophomore in high school. Though her fiance is a U.S. citizen, marrying him doesn't protect her from deportation.
"Growing up, I didn't have to worry about that. I thought I was just like everyone else," Guzman said. "Now I know I have to do everything with caution.”
Guzman lives and works legally in the U.S. through Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), a program created by President Barack Obama in 2012. The program protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children.
The program grants recipients a work permit and the ability to apply for a driver's license, though it doesn't offer a path to lawful permanent residence. It requires that applicants have a clean criminal record, were brought to the U.S. before they were 16 years old and that they have lived in the country continuously for at least five years. DACA recipients aren’t eligible for federal financial aid, putting college out of reach for many, including Guzman, and they can’t leave the country without risking not being allowed to re-enter.
When President Donald Trump's administration attempted to rescind DACA in 2017, several federal courts blocked the move, allowing current DACA recipients to keep and renew their status. However, it put a hold on all new applications.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the Trump administration acted unlawfully when it rescinded the program. The court is expected to offer a judgment by spring.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there were 660,880 active DACA recipients in the U.S. as of June 30. Of those, 5,350 are in Minnesota and 110 are in North Dakota.
Martha Castanon works for the St. Paul-based Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and opened its Moorhead office four years ago. Guzman is one of four current clients Castanon works with who are DACA recipients. She said it's common for her to see clients from northwestern Minnesota, since immigration resources tend to be more scarce in more rural areas.
Castanon said that if the court ultimately allows the Trump administration to end the program, it's unclear what will come next for people like Guzman.
"They're trying to stay positive," Castanon said. "They're hoping that the court system will see something in the law that will be in their favor, but many are worried. Many of them came in as very young children. To them, this is home."
Guzman agreed that having the program in limbo has caused her anxiety. She said it can be isolating, as well – she doesn't know anyone else who is a DACA recipient, and she said she doesn't tell anyone besides her closest family and friends about her status. She worries she will be looked at differently.
"I do get a sense sometimes where I don't want to do anything but sleep. It is depressing," she said. "And then you hear things on the news, which gets you more in a hole where you just don't know what to think anymore."
DACA recipients must apply for renewal every two years, and Guzman is due for renewal in May 2020. Finding the money for the nearly $500 renewal fee has been one of the most difficult parts of the program for her, she said.
And soon, that hill could get steeper. On Nov. 8, the Trump administration has proposed new increases to immigration fees, including for DACA recipients. If passed, the DACA renewal fee would be raised from $495 to $765, a 55% increase.
According to a Nov. 8 statement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, fees collected from DACA recipients, lawful permanent residents and naturalized citizens account for 96% of its annual budget. The proposed increases include a new $50 fee for asylum-seekers as well.
The proposed increases have entered a public comment period that will end Dec. 16.
In the meantime, with little else to do, Guzman said she’s keeping herself busy and surrounding herself with loved ones. And in between everything else, she's also trying to follow the news about DACA as much as she can.
"It really upsets me whenever I hear that things aren't really looking good," she said. "In my head, I just start thinking like, what if something bad happens? What if I have to go back?"