Interviewing Maria, Immigrant Advocate and DACA Recipient

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“On the morning of Tuesday, September 5, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be rescinded. An Obama administration 2012 executive action, DACA grants temporary legal status and provides 2-year work permits to individuals who were brought to the country as children without immigration documents. According to the Washington Post, an estimated 800,000  immigrants benefit from the program.” – Excerpt from Staff Release: Open Americas Condemns Decision to Rescind DACA Program

The following interview was conducted in November 2017 between Maria, a DACA recipient, and Alexia Rauen. Maria came to the United States from Mexico when she was only seven years old. She has an older brother and an older sister, neither of whom are eligible for DACA.

1. How did your life change on June 15, 2012 when former president Barack Obama implemented DACA?

My life was changed dramatically when President Barack Obama implemented DACA. DACA was not given to us, and on the other hand, it was as a result of immigrant activists, organizations, and allies fighting for it. With DACA, I now could continue to follow my dreams in this country without any fear for myself. Of course, I had fear for my parents, but at least with DACA, we had hope that there would be better things in the future for us.

2. How has having DACA affected you and your family?

DACA has given me the opportunity to continue my higher education, amongst other things. I knew that I could go to college with or without DACA, but with DACA, I was able to apply to private scholarships that I could not otherwise apply to. I was fortunate enough to have received all the scholarships that I applied for, thus resulting in a full ride to receive my bachelor’s degree. In addition to that, I was able to fulfill my dream of going outside the United States, to the city of lights: Paris, France. I was able to apply for Advance Parole, and was fortunate to have received it. For many, travel abroad is easy, but for me, this was a dream come true. Lastly, as a result of being able to obtain my driver’s license, I became the driver for my family, so that there would be no fear of getting stopped by the police. I also became the person to sign for any vehicles we bought. With DACA, we were able to live a safer life here in the United States.

3. What were your reactions to Trump’s overturn of the DACA program?

When Trump rescinded DACA, it was one of the worst days of my life. I went to classes, but everyone saw the sadness on my face, as well as in my heart. It was a moment of uncertainty once more. Why was I supposed to continue my education, if at the end, I was once again uncertain if I could be able to put my degree into practice. I had hope that he would change his mind about the “illegals.” But this was just a confirmation to the cold heart that he has. Many would be ending their professional careers as a result. Thousands would once more go back into the shadows because of the fear that this brought. Thousands would now be vulnerable to deportation. Many would once again lose hope of this country that they call home.  

4. What misinformation have you heard or been affected by?

As a response of this tragedy, many people came out to express that, we “DACAmented recipients” did not belong in this country. This made people courageous once more to express the hate that they have towards immigrants in this country. With this, I fear that people will feel emboldened to target us. I have mental breakdowns because I am afraid of what is to come.

5. What would you say to the politicians who don’t want DACA to continue?

The following comments are for those politicians, citizens and any other person who do not want a clean DREAM Act, a solution to this problem. First, I want you to close your eyes. I want to ask you to put yourself in our shoes. Imagine that you came to this country to seek a better future, because your country impeded you from going forward in life. You come here to learn, you come here to prosper, and you come here to give back to this country that you call home. All throughout your life, there have been people and laws impeding you from getting closer to your dreams. You have to go through so many obstacles in order to be in the same level as citizens of the United States. You have to work extremely hard in order to be recognized. Once you are nearer to your aspirations, you once again are stopped. People tell you that you do not belong here, that you must return. What would you do? Would you get angry? Would you want to go back? What if this was your child? Would you want your children to go back to your country? Would you want to separate yourself from your family? Would you want to go back to the country that you saw violence? Would you want your children to go back to the country they were born in, to get killed? Now, please open your eyes. Please realize that these are the things that real human people, like yourself, have to go through. They fear this. People who are your neighbors, sisters and brothers from your church, people you pray with, people your children are friends with: these are the undocumented people that you condemn. These people are the ones that you hate. These are the people that you do not want in this country. This is our reality. Would you want this reality to be yours?

6. Can you explain what a DREAM Act means to you and what you would want it to include?

A clean DREAM Act is a pathway to citizenship for as many undocumented people as possible, without any additional “solution” to another problem. What does that mean? It means that this should be something that should not have anything to do with other “problems.” A clean DREAM Act should not include the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico. Why only build a border to the  south  why not build a border to the north? There are actual reports that show that the greatest amount of immigrants are not from Mexico, Central or South America, but rather from Asia. This would not stop other immigrants from coming here. A DREAM Act should not increase border militarization. Is there a deeper problem? Is there a problem with Hispanic people, who look differently, and not with the Canadian citizens who look like you? Is there racism? What is this? What are the values of this country of “freedom?” If a clean DREAM Act were to pass, this would prove to me and thousands of others that this country is one that actually has freedom, and not hate. This would give us hope once more that there are good people out there. This would give us hope that our journey was not in vain.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.