'It's freedom I've never felt before': Sanford DACA recipient speaks on Biden administration's push to preserve program

SANFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- In the Biden administration's first day in office, the 46th president has made immigration one of his main priorities, ensuring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program is saved.

"I'm sorry, I'm getting teary eyes. It's just freedom that I've never felt before," said Sanford resident Barbara Mojica in a Zoom interview with Eyewitness News.

Mojica, along with more than half-a-million other DACA recipients, is breathing a sigh of relief on Wednesday evening, "A lot of my close friends are DACA recipients, and we're all really excited."

The 26-year-old moved to Arizona from Southern Mexico when she was just five-years-old. Eventually, she and her parents settled in North Carolina.

"Before we got DACA, I knew I was undocumented; I knew that was going to be the life that I was going to have to live in America," Mojica explained.

While the Obama-era DACA program gave her hope, the last four years were filled with uncertainty and fear. The Trump administration tried terminating the program in 2017, but those attempts were blocked by the Supreme Court in the summer of 2020.

Former President Donald Trump made it abundantly clear that the program was not going to be permanent under his administration.

Mojica tells ABC11 it was a terrifying few years saying, "we have been very unsure of our futures." Like many DACA recipients, who grew up in the U.S., Mojica has not been back to her home country since she was a child.

Those worries quickly diminished the moment President Biden was officially sworn in on Wednesday. Biden quickly started signing a long list of executive orders, including a memorandum to preserve DACA and include an immediate pathway to citizenship for people like Mojica.

"I guess that's what the American Dream is made of, right? Like, just being able to choose your choices based on freedom and not based on fear," Mojica said.

A freedom that Mojica says is priceless. The UNC Pembroke student is currently working on her bachelor's and says this news means she'll be able to keep that going. "If we get residency, my plan is to finish my undergrad and continue with my masters. And really, really pursue my education full time."
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