During her sophomore year at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Flor Selena Cáceres watched as her friends got their learner’s permits, and tried to explain why she wasn’t joining them.
She told them it was because she was busy with her academic programs, which she was. But the full truth was a little more complicated.
It’s not that she didn’t want to get her permit, and eventually her license, an act long viewed as a right of passage in an American teenager’s life. It’s that she couldn’t.
Flor Cáceres is an undocumented immigrant. Cáceres, who is now 18 and soon to be 19, was brought here from Guatemala when she was 4 years old.
“What’s the point of me trying to get this, if I don’t have the legal documentation yet?,” Cáceres says, reflecting back on the experience.
Cáceres was eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, an American immigration policy that provides undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16 with temporary protection from deportation, work authorization, and the ability to apply for a social security number.
But the application cost $465, and Cáceres’ parents did not have the financial resources to pay for her DACA application. “Because there were so many financial bills to take care of, there just wasn’t the chance for me to get my DACA approval, so there was no chance for me to apply to be part of the driver’s ed class in high school. I was watching all my friends go to driver’s ed class, get their permit and eventually their license, and I realized, ‘Wow, I’m not like any other average student at all.’”