In most ways that matter to someone like Donald Trump, Laura is American.
She grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, smack in the middle of the heartland that largely voted for him. She went to fames Madison Memorial High School, shopping after class at West Towne Mall across the street. She spent her Fourth of Julys at Elver Park, where you can spread out a blanket at the foot of a towering hill and lie directly beneath the fireworks as they flame out into the night.
When I first meet twenty-one-year-old Laura, who wanted to use her first name only, she's crouched down on the playground with her two-year-old daughter. They share sips from a Starbucks cup as we bond over our shared history on the west side of Madison. Elver Park, the food court at West Towne--these are places that shaped my typical American upbringing.
But they've just as deeply shaped Laura--a Lantinx immigrant and a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA--and her hopes for her own child, a U.S. citizen.
"Whatever 1 can do to better my daughter's life," she tells me. "And my own, too. But once you have kids, it changes. You want to do everything for them."
DACA gave Laura, whose parents and partner are undocumented, the stability to carry out these plans. It allowed her to complete a certified nursing assistant program on a scholarship and find work. But Laura felt that safety net slip away after Trump's election, and again when he announced an end to the Obama-era DACA program. What would happen to her daughter if her parents were deported?
Laura is one of a growing number of DACA beneficiaries in this situation. A 2017 study by the immigrant youth advocacy group United We Dream, the liberal Center for American Progress, the National Immigration Law Center, and University of California at San Diego political scientist Tom K. Wong surveyed 3,063 DACA beneficiaries across the country in August of this year. It found that just over a quarter of respondents has an American citizen child. Wong has estimated that this means there are around 200,000 children in the United States with a parent who is a DACA beneficiary.
But Laura has a contingency plan, one she put in place not long after giving birth. It's something more and more people in her position are now pursuing--a legal option that's as potentially helpful as it is untested: leaving her child in someone else's hands.
I ask Laura what she remembers from her journey here twelve years ago, when she was eight...