SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Undocumented immigrant students right here in the Coastal Empire are uneasy and fearful after a promise from President-elect Donald Trump to end President Obama's special protection for them.
The program is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA. It protects those undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children as they get an education. For many, it represents a chance for a better life.
Meet Emmanuel Diaz. He is one of 740,000 undocumented immigrants taking advantage of DACA. Diaz came with his mother and two brothers from Carlima, Mexico to Baxley, Georgia in 1997. He grew up in the Appling County School System, becoming engrained with much of American culture.
"Those qualities and characteristics that they instill in those children as far as having aspirations for your future, wanting to better yourself, all of those qualities, those were instilled in us," said Diaz.
Diaz graduated from Appling County number three in his class. In 2012, an executive action from President Obama made a college education possible for many like Diaz.
"A lot of hope to many people but more so what it offered was this overwhelming relief," said Diaz.
Almost 30,000 students take advantage of the program in Georgia. They're referred to as "Dreamers". Among several guidelines, you must have come to the United States before you were 16, you must have lived here since June of 2007, and you have to have a clean criminal record. Also, DACA recipients do not receive any federal aid for school.
"In a sense, we're following fundamentals of what America was built on - grab yourself by your bootstraps and pull yourself up," said Diaz.
With Trump's victory, comes uncertainty. The president-elect has vowed to do away with DACA and deport the undocumented immigrants. For thousands of them, they have nowhere to go in the country they came from; that's not the home they know.
"I would go to my parents' house in Baxley, Georgia because that is where my home is. That is where I grew up," said Diaz.
Diaz said the immigration policies in place now don't offer a legal path towards citizenship for undocumented immigrants like him.
Just last week, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced legislation that would block Trump's attempt to nix DACA. Diaz has a message for politicians trying to get rid of the program.
"Help me help my community," said Diaz. "Help me help my people that I care about here in the United States."
He also has a message for his fellow Dreamers – don't give up hope.
"Hope is all we can cling to," said Diaz.
Their hope is that the future they've fought so hard for isn't taken from them. Diaz added there was skepticism when DACA was first introduced. That skepticism is now back, specifically whether the government will use their personal info to track them down and deport them.
President-elect Trump has back-tracked on his plan to eliminate DACA, instead, saying he will reveal a new plan that will make everyone proud.
Congressman Buddy Carter issued a statement though and called DACA an unconstitutional executive action.