I remember the day I applied to be a Dreamer. It was June last year, shortly before my 19th birthday and the Presidential election. My mom and I were so excited about my DACA application, she insisted on taking a photo of me at the post office holding the sealed envelope. I was hopeful I’d be approved, but at the same time, I knew the political climate was changing, and that my future was anything but certain.
And now, less than two months after I finally received DACA, the Trump administration has announced it will end the program.
Even though I grew up without immigration papers, I consider myself to be an American. I haven’t the slightest memory of the place I was born — Jacona, Michoacan in Mexico. My family was poor, and had no hope for their future in Mexico. I was only two years old when we arrived to the United States, eventually settling in Stockton, California.
I grew up well aware of my immigrant status. My parents would always advise me about what to do if something were to happen to them or if they didn’t come home from work. My parents ingrained in me teachings on performing well in school, being respectful, and whatever I do, do not get in trouble with the law. The last of those was stressed more than the others. To this day, my mom still tells me, “No te vaya a meter en problemas”– “Don’t get in any problems.”
I went through many trials and tribulations during my high school years; I came to terms with my sexuality, my parents split up, and much more. The most devastating of these was when my father was deported. He got stopped while driving by police and when they discovered he didn’t have a license, they arrested him. He was later deported. I wasn’t allowed to see him at the detention center or even say goodbye when it was time for him to go. I never got the chance to come out to my father and reveal to him in person who I really was.
My mom would always tell me to be careful when telling people my immigration status. I never told anyone when I was going to school in Pennsylvania, but when I moved to California, in high school I discovered many of my friends or their parents were going through the same situation. So I began being more vocal on the issue.
Then, in 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA. And with the stroke of a pen, my life and the life of nearly 1 million young immigrants changed for the better.
It took a few years, but in May of 2016, I finally got the money necessary for my DACA in the most amazing and humbling way. All of my high school teachers pitched in and collected all $480 needed to submit my DACA application, and donated it to me. It was an act of kindness that, even to this day, brings tears to my eyes.
I wanted to become a Dreamer, but I knew it was a risky decision. The presidential election was well underway, and Donald Trump had essentially clinched the Republican nomination. He had already stated that, if elected, he would immediately terminate both of President Obama’s executive orders, DACA and DAPA. My family and I struggled with the decision of whether or not to submit it. The way we saw it, if a Democrat won the election, DACA was saved. If a Republican won, Dreamers (including potentially me) could be at risk.
Ultimately we decided I should submit it and hope for the best.
November 8th came — election day — and Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. I remember crying to myself all night. It felt like a traumatic experience for me. Everything I was afraid of hit me all at once. I had friends frantically messaging me all night, scared for themselves and their parents.
“Will DACA end?” they asked.
“Am I gonna get deported?”
“Are my Muslim, LGBTQ, and immigrant friends safe?”
Even though I was scared, I was also determined. I knew, more than ever, I was going to have to be more vocal. I wasn’t giving up on my dream.
It took more than a year for my DACA to be processed and approved. I finally received my social security this July at age 19. Before this, I struggled with paying for college textbooks and all my other expenses. Since I couldn’t work legally, the only other option would’ve been to work in agriculture but I couldn’t work in that and be a full time student. Thankfully, I had the financial support of my family. This month, with DACA, I got my first official job. I was excited, even as news began to circulate that Trump was considering ending DACA.
On Tuesday, September 5, the Trump administration announced it would cancel DACA, after a short period of delay in which Congress could move to enact new immigration reform.
The idea of DACA ending fills me with fear. I fear that I’ll have to quit my job before I even begin my first day. I’m afraid that my information might be used by ICE to find me and detain me. Its disheartening to know that after such a long wait and with the help of so many people, it might all go to waste. Everything I’ve done was to be able to get DACA and be able to work. I don’t know how else I will be able to be financially stable and attend my classes. DACA is quite literally a lifeline for me and to have it suddenly pulled away just as I laid my hand on it, hurts me and everyone else who is reaching for the same line.
My fellow DACA recipients and I just want to succeed. We are not criminals, we’ve had our entire lives vetted by the Department of Homeland Security and essentially the whole the United States government. We came out of the shadows, we are students, we are workers, we have families to take care of and we want to contribute to society. We aren’t taking away your money, we are in fact doing the opposite. We aren’t receiving welfare and cashing Social Security checks because we are prohibited from receiving federal funds. Ending DACA will not silence us. We will protest in more numbers, and in louder voices. We will bring the fight to every senator and congressman’s office.
We will keep fighting to save DACA. Our lives are depending on it.
This originally ran in Youth Radio. Click here to read it there.