(Reuters) – Ilka Eren, 25, arrived in the United States from Turkey with her parents more than 15 years and lives in the country without legal authorization.
While in college, she applied for and qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program that President Donald Trump promised to finalize during his 2016 presidential campaign.
The program does not change the legal status of an immigrant but protects it from deportation and grants the right to work to the so-called "Dreamers", young people brought to the United States when they were children and living illegally in the country. Nearly 800,000 immigrants have received DACA protection since the program's launch in 2012.
Eren's DACA status opened the door to several internships, and finally to a job in New York at Ovation Travel Group, which provides travel services to corporations, as executive assistant to the CFO.
"DACA literally changed my life," he said. "I really do not know where I would be without that"
Paul Metselaar, executive director of Ovation, does not know where he would be without Eren.
He said that his job responsibilities have grown due to his abilities. He said that she reminded him of his own grandparents, who emigrated to the United States to seek a better life. If Eren were to lose his job eligibility, it would be a blow to his company, Metselaar said.
But, he added, "it would be much more of a blow to his family and to who we are as a country."
Trump is expected to announce the decision to end DACA on Tuesday, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation, but with a delay of up to six months to allow Congress to find a legislative solution.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to quickly repeal the program, but since taking office, even when he has stepped up enforcement of the immigration law, he has sometimes adopted a softer tone about DACA. "We love the Dreamers," he told reporters on Friday.
Hard-line immigrants within the Republican Party have pressured the president to eliminate the program. Nine Republican attorneys general have said they will present a legal challenge to the program if the Trump administration does not cancel it before Tuesday.
Many business leaders have urged the president to maintain the protections of DACA, including the heads of technology giants Microsoft (MSFT.O), Apple (AAPL.O) and Facebook (FB.O). They have usually cited a possible blow to the economy if the program came to an end, although there is little government data on Dreamers as a distinct economic group.
Still, with the US economy UU Next to full employment, ending DACA would bring a net loss of productivity, said Giovanni Peri, professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, who studies immigration.
Groups that support tougher enforcement of immigration say that eliminating the program would also bring benefits.
"The end of DACA would result in very welcome jobs for US college graduates and other US workers who are unemployed or underemployed and feel completely excluded from the workforce and blocked to achieve their American dream." said Dave Ray, communications director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors the reduction of immigration.
In interviews with Reuters, recipients of DACA and their employers emphasized another aspect of what it would mean to end the program: the holes that such a movement would leave in lives and workplaces.
"I KNEW THAT IT WOULD BE SOMEONE"
Georgina Lepe, who runs a probate and real estate practice at her office in Rancho Cucamonga, California, liked Karla Martinez so much that she hired her twice.
He met Martinez for the first time when he was in a cafeteria in a Mexican restaurant owned by the Lepe family and was impressed with his work ethic. When Martinez graduated from the University of Southern California in December 2015, Lepe hired her to temporarily help with marketing.
Martinez left after a few months to work in another place. Later, Lepe tracked her down and asked her to come back, this time as a full-time paralegal.
"Even when I worked at the restaurant, I knew it would be someone," said Lepe, who is 30 years old and, like Martinez, of a Mexican family. "The difference between (us) is that my family was able to help me financially achieve my goals."
Martinez, who came to the United States with her mother when she was four years old, helps pay the accounts in the house he shares with his mother and two younger brothers. Now that she is 24 years old, she plans to apply to law school, if DACA does not finish and can still afford to return to school.
"Obviously I think about it and it's a little scary, but I'm not letting it take hold of me," Martinez said.
Lepe says that if Martinez's work permit is revoked, "I'll keep Karla until the last second" and probably would not hire a replacement. "I do not think anyone can compare," she says.
"REALLY IMPOSES YOU"
Chuck Rocha, founder of Solidarity Strategies, employs DACA recipient, Luis Alcauter, at his Washington-based political consultancy D.C., which specializes in reaching Latinos. Losing Alcauter "would be devastating," said Rocha.
Alcauter, 27, came to the United States from Mexico when he was 13 years old, and attended California State University, Fresno, where he developed an interest in politics, which led to his internment in the Capitol. The internship was possible, he said, because of his DACA status.
"In order to have the documents and be able to apply anywhere, it really allows you to think beyond where you were," Alcauter said. "It simply enables people to find a job, buy a car, buy a house, move around, contribute to their families"
"I REALLY HAVE A GOOD CAR"
] Juan Ochoa, CEO of Miramar Group, an Illinois-based facility management company that oversees 1,200 buildings across the country, said his company will hire a lawyer to try to keep DACA employee Jay Meza, 23, if the program ends.
"Now I have a good job," said Meza, who arrived in the United States from Mexico with his parents and brother when he was 3 years old. "I'm really looking forward to buying my first home, in fact, I have a good car."
Ochoa said Meza started at Miramar doing data entry and analyzing spreadsheets and then helped the company build a system that would allow it to track its buildings and employees.
"We have invested a lot of time and money into training Jay, so it would be a significant loss for us," he said.