When I was around six years old, I remember always seeing my dad getting home from work. He would come home everyday around 6pm; exhausted, sunburnt, and often inebriated. I never understood the nature of his job, I just knew I lived in poverty, I didn’t see a lot of my dad, and that my parents were often arguing about money. As I was growing up, I discovered that my dad had to wake up everyday around 3 am, cross the Mexican border into El Paso, Texas, and be driven for about an hour into an extensive field where he would pick fruits and vegetables for long hours, often under triple-digit weather, in order to provide for us. He would often talk to my mom about crossing over illegally so she could give birth to my brother in the U.S. and we could take advantage of the education system. He wanted us to have a shot at a better life. My mom considered it, but would ultimately get overwhelmed with fear regarding the dangers of such actions. Years went by and our lives didn’t get any better. Now it was me, my older sister, and my younger brother all sharing a room. My mom and dad would sleep in the living room. Our house was falling apart, our schools were in desperate need of funding, and my dad was wasting away in a job that was extremely physically-demanding. My life truly wasn’t represented in a sitcom.
The years continued to go by and we could feel our futures slipping out of our hands. Then, unexpectedly, we got the news that through the hard work of my dad, my family was going to be able to seek residency legally in the United States. It was a long, expensive, stressful process that in the end allowed us to come to the country legally. I came here when I was around 16 years old. I struggled to learn the language, to accommodate my life to the American culture, and to try not only to survive, but thrive in a society that expected me to fail. It wasn’t an easy journey. It still isn’t. But the quality of my life improved drastically and I have been provided with amazing opportunities that have allowed me to grow and develop into the person I am today. I was one of the lucky ones.
Yesterday, my heart sank with the news of the end of DACA. For those of you who don’t know about it, DACA stands for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals. President Obama created DACA through a 2012 executive order. The program has allowed hundreds of thousands of people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country. This didn’t come without any restrictions. Applicants cannot have serious criminal histories, and must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007 when they were under the age of 16. DACA recipients can live and work legally in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods. They are often, and aptly, called “dreamers” due to the failed Congress DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). Today, President Trump decided to “rescind of the program” proving, yet again, he doesn’t have an ounce of decency, compassion, or humanity.
See these people are Americans in every sense of the way, except on a piece of paper. These are young people who were brought to this country illegally when they were children, or often even infants, and have grown up, attended school, built careers, started families, and become an integral part of our communities. To many of these folks, this is the only country they can remember. English is the only language they can speak. They didn’t ask to be brought here, their parents made that decision in order to be able to provide a better future. These people have done nothing wrong. The idea that the president could take away the legal status of over 800,000 young people and put them in a position where they could be deported is cruel, fascist, and downright un-American.
It seems like I say this every week, but this is truly Trump’s most evil act yet. I feel ashamed for the country, I feel saddened for those inspiring young people, and I feel angrier than ever at Donald Trump. I am also angry at myself. I take pride in being someone who isn’t capable of hating another human being. But everyday Trump makes me grow closer and closer to that sentiment, and I am frankly afraid of what that would do to my character. To see the president of the country tormenting hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans and actively using them as a negotiating tactic towards immigration is despicable. As American citizens, as residents, simply, as human beings, we must show how appalled we are by this disgusting act of power and bigotry. There are many steps we can take to help the cause:
Sharing your story
In these tough times, it is easy to be desensitized and indifferent towards issues that don’t directly affect us. It is important for those who are affected the most to share their brave stories in order for people to continue to witness the value of their contributions. DACA has made it possible for undocumented immigrants to work as teachers, firefighters, paramedics, to serve in the military, and to excel in many other fields and professions. Losing these people will absolutely affect all of us. Lets bring more awareness to those stories. Be loud, be vocal, be proud. Don’t let bigotry silence you.
Participate in local events
Getting involved locally is an amazing way to show your support towards DACA and the Dreamers. Start by contacting your local organizations that work with immigrant rights and issues. Stay up to date on social media and share any upcoming events with your followers. A great resource is this website that connects you to local DACA-related events.
Contact your representatives
Congress is now the last hope for the Dreamers. It’s our responsibility to pressure elected representatives to pass legislation that will protect DACA recipients form deportation. The 5Calls website is my favorite helpful tool to contact my representatives. It allows you to chose your location and directs you to issues affecting it or you can also look for the issue independently. Then it will give you the right number to call along with a script that helps you get your message across.
The “United We Dream” website breaks down several petitions you can sign depending on your state to continue defending DACA.
Ultimately, this is about defending the rights of people who represent everything that is great about this country. The attack that they were subjected to is unprecedented, cruel, and undeserving. I am not just going to sit here and watch this unfold. I urge all of you to do your part and keep the dream alive. And to all my Dreamers out there, I cant even imagine how you must feel. All those feelings are valid. You should allow yourself to cry, to scream, to be angry. But most of all, allow yourself to continue being as strong as you have been day-in and day-out. Despite what the current administration might say, we value your contributions, we value your characters, and we will continue to fight for you.