By VoiceWaves Youth Reporter Michael Lozano

Since President Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in August 2012, more than 400,000 young people have received DACA benefits. For many, DACA brought welcome relief to the constant stress, anxiety and fear that often came with a life without papers. VoiceWaves interviewed four “DACAmented” youth to explore the many different ways DACA has changed the way they live their lives and the hopes they have for a better future.

anaAna Roman, 25
Cashier at local cleaners
Studying Psychology, Chicano Studies & Africana Studies at CSULB

Ana Roman spent a late November weekend driving from her Long Beach home 45 miles east to Claremont for a conference for immigrant youth.

That long trek was huge for Roman. Before she was approved for DACA, she had to undergo two impoundments of her car, for driving without a license.

Life before DACA was tough. Roman was denied and fired from multiple jobs for using false identification. To better her life, Roman decided to take a risk: to drive without a license to get to and from work and school. Then things took a costly turn.

Roman’s car was impounded. Twice. Car impoundments can end up costing undocumented immigrants hundreds of dollars, and sometimes even losing the car itself.

For Roman, her experience with impoundments led her to determine that she would never own another vehicle for six years. But now, Roman can rest assured that an impoundment won’t happen again—at least in the next two years—because DACA now affords her a driver’s license.

“It gives me the freedom to go anywhere I want… I don’t have to think about it twice,” Roman said.

Roman has lived in Long Beach since she and her mother came to the U.S. from Mexico City when she was 8 years old. Today, Roman advocates for other immigrant youth and calls on organizers to challenge themselves to push the immigrant rights movement further.

“Now we’re secure to go out. It’s time to speak up for our parents and families,” Roman said.

Roman’s dream career is to teach social justice law as a professor.

“Before DACA, I wasn’t so sure about what I was going to do with my degree,” she said. “That was pretty depressing at times.”

But now, she finally has a valid social security number so she will be able to put her degree to work.

“It’s nine numbers that give me freedom to give back, to do as much as I can to my fullest potential. That’s the best thing I’ve got from DACA,” said Roman.