DACA: a lifeline for many. A beacon in the shadows that thousands of young immigrants lived in. A peace of mind for us, those who feared that the next day we would not be in the United States anymore. An opportunity long denied for us — those who speak the same language as you, pledge to the same flag and carry the same patriotism for this country and its institutions. All of this cut short, by one decision.
I am an undocumented immigrant who after almost one year since applying for DACA has not heard back about the status of my application. Now my worry is not whether I will receive DACA but if I should have applied to it. Like all “DACAmented” immigrants and applicants, the government is armed with my address, entire academic record and sensitive family information. Now, I am unsure whether I will receive a work permit or a deportation letter. That letter could not only be for me, it could also be for my parents. Though it is true that I still could receive DACA since my application was submitted before its revocation and the six-month delay is in place, very few things about our current political situation give me hope for that. Frankly, the worst part of this is that my entire life is in limbo, yet I have no control over my future.
At the same time, the sense of being powerless is nothing new to me. I was instructed to not talk about my status even if my people, the immigrant community, were being attacked. It’s the voiceless situation of knowing that many of the laws and elections are going to affect me in severe ways, but I can’t vote for any of those contests.
My status has always made me stand out, to say the very least, even in places like my high school where the majority of students are Latin American and children of immigrants. Even there, I had no shortage of awkward moments such as in a U.S. Government class when our teacher made us take a mock citizenship test, and I scored the highest in a room full of U.S. citizens. It was moments like when classmates would ask me about a certain part of FAFSA, and I had to tell them I wasn’t eligible for federal financial aid, despite the fact that my family and I have paid taxes all our lives.
Unsurprisingly, this has not changed at Yale, nor did I ever expect it to. When fellow Yalies ask me about what places I’m interested in for study abroad, I have to explain that if I leave the U.S., I will not return. It’s explaining that I can’t afford any complications with the law, as it could ultimately result in me being sent out of the country.
But now it’s different for me. I’ve learned that my voice is not subject to suppression; rather, it is an instrument to fight for change. It is for this reason that I am writing this piece now, putting my status out publicly fully aware of the possible social and legal repercussions. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for my safety, but my fear of being deported is largely outweighed by my fear of staying silent and letting others write false narratives about immigrants.
Lately, those narratives have come from the White House. The president and his administration claim immigrants are criminals that are here to take American jobs, but the reality is that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes. The jobs that are being “taken,” such as those of picking fruit in the fields, are vastly being abandoned out of fear of immigration raids. Almost no U.S. citizen is there to fill those vacancies. When the Attorney General goes on to say DACA was ended because they believed the executive order usurped presidential powers and was unconstitutional, while at the same time attempting to ban people from entering the US based on their religion, I knew that DACA was rescinded due to racism and xenophobia. Regarding economic reasons, DACA’s rescindment makes no logical sense. DACA recipients are overwhelmingly in the workforce, contributing to our companies and small businesses or studying and cultivating the ideas of tomorrow. DACAmented immigrants are forced to plan their lives in two-year intervals, because that is the only time period they are guaranteed with the executive order.
DACA isn’t even legal residency or a path to citizenship. It is just a work permit, and recipients are still technically undocumented. Yet it made so much of a difference in the lives of many. It allowed my brother to help pay for college via work study. DACA instilled in me hope that maybe I would be able to pursue my studies like a normal college student. And it has done so much more for the thousands of other DACA applicants or recipients. Though I cannot even fathom what DACA recipients feel knowing that their newly acquired jobs, freedom, and peace of mind are now possibly being stripped from them, I know we can help.
To my U.S. citizen friends that are allies of our cause: you need to engage and be our voice in elections. You have that privilege of voting, which most of us aspire toward but don’t have. Seeing you sit out an election — no matter how small — is an act against us. To all, as appreciative as I am, you can’t call tweeting or Facebook posts activism. You changing your profile picture to “Here to Stay. I Support DACA” is nice, but what are you actually doing to support us? Are you attending rallies? Are you calling your government representatives? If you are, thank you. If not, I’m letting you know that is not enough.
To my people, the undocumented population: we’ve been in the shadows before. We can overcome this. Now more than ever, we need to unite and be there for each other, regardless of our country of origin. We, too, have to attend rallies and call OUR representatives. It’s a bumpy road ahead, but when has the road ever been smooth for us?
As for me, I refuse to be intimidated by any government that derives its power from the people. And though it seems like it’s me against the world, I know there are ways to change that. It requires continuous fighting and struggle. But just as my compatriot Emiliano Zapata boldly stated, “Es mejor morir de pie, que vivir de rodillas.” And I’ll be damned if I beg for change, instead of fighting for it on my feet.
Contact Carlos Rodriguez Cortez at firstname.lastname@example.org .