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About Our People Legal Stuff

For 'Dreamers' with disabilities, it's more than a DACA work permit on the line

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Paulina Ruiz, 26, is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permit. She also has cerebral palsy.

"As opposed to a regular person who has a disability, I do not qualify for any sort of benefits from the government," says Ruiz.


The 26-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles, California, says she needs President Trump to keep DACA going or she will lose her ability to work legally, which she says she needs since the state-run programs don't cover the medical expenses associated with her chronic condition.

"I do need a job to be able to survive."

As opposed to a regular person who has a disability, I do not qualify for any sort of benefits from the government.
Paulina Ruiz, DACA recipient with cerebral palsy


And without that job, Ruiz says she wouldn't be able to pay her high medical costs such as buying her first wheelchair, which she's paying for out of pocket with the help of a GoFundMe campaign. The cost?

"About 20 grand," says Ruiz.

Like a lot of the almost 800,000 DACA recipients in the U.S., Ruiz says she was brought to the U.S. from Mexico at a young age, when she was 6 years old. Unlike most, she was brought to get the medical care she needs to stay alive.

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"I needed surgeries, immediate surgeries done," said Ruiz.

Upon arrival to the U.S., she says those surgeries were paid for by California's Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, for emergency surgeries and by donations. According to Covered California, DACA recipients in California qualify for a limited version of Medi-Cal, which usually covers routine check-ups, but not costs associated with procedures like kidney dialysis and a wheelchair, both expenses Ruiz has incurred because of her condition.

"And so the best choice for the medical care was just to come to the U.S," Ruiz said.

There are no statistics on how many DACA recipients have a chronic medical condition, but the United Cerebral Palsy estimates that about 764,000 Americans "manifest one or more symptoms" of cerebral palsy.

But many Trump supporter want DACA repealed, and a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill oppose it. They feel it was an overreach by the executive branch.

And they're not alone. Ten state attorney generals and one governor signed a letter to the president stating that the executive branch does not have the power to "confer lawful presence and work authorization on unlawfully present aliens."


That same group threatened a lawsuit if the president does not terminate DACA. This is also part of the same group of state attorney generals that in 2014 challenged and effectively put a stop to President Obama's DAPA, which would have offered protection to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens.

The complaint in that case will be amended to challenge both the DACA program and the remaining Expanded DACA permits.
Atty. General Ken Paxton


With pressure mounting from attorney general on both sides of the issue, President Trump is expected to make a decision on whether or not to keep DACA going on or before Sept. 5.

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Until that decision is made, Ruiz says she's on the same mission she was on when she arrived to the U.S. 20 years ago—get better medical treatment.

"I honestly don't know [what I'm going to do if DACA is repealed] because DACA has helped me not only in terms of health, but it has also helped me open doors in order to find a job, go to school and essentially continue to be a productive member of society."

Related stories on Circa:
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to prevent Trump from deporting 'Dreamers'
Deportations of former Dreamers have ramped up under Trump, DHS finds
Why the country's most elite universities are giving undocumented students full rides

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