I’ve waited 18 years. The talks of immigration reform on cable news are motifs in my life. “Illegals are taking jobs,” one conservative pundit says. “No one is illegal, and they simply aren’t taking jobs,” the liberal commentator responds. I know how these debates unfold every time. Eighteen years of the same debate. Eighteen years of inaction on my future.
I don’t know why I felt this time would be any different. About six months after President Trump got rid of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, I am still waiting, but my patience is wearing thin. March 5. The infamous deadline for action regarding 800,000 “Dreamers.” The real “Dreamers” and not the ones that the President looked to create in his State of the Union. The date came. No news and no action on DACA. I can no longer pretend to be fine, while uncertainty rules my life.
Currently, some state courts have filed decisions against the repeal of the DACA. To the fortune of about 800,000 people, myself included, the Supreme Court has also turned down a suit by the Trump administration to fight these state rulings. As a result, DACA recipients who can continue to renew their work permit have been granted a small relief. Meanwhile, this same source of relief excludes eligible immigrants from applying (for the first time) for DACA. If you ask almost any of us who gain this benefit, you will find that we are worried out of our minds for family and friends who can no longer apply for DACA. By helping a few, we also hurt many.
March 5 went on like any other day for me. There was nothing special to celebrate. What good was a tweet of reaffirmation from my California senators, when they failed to create any real change in policy? If U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials showed up to my parents’ doorstep, my senators weren’t going to save them. Republicans failed once again. They always talk about immigration as a problem but never seem interested in a solution that doesn’t involve separating families.
Yet, I still had some hope in some Republicans. I thought Republicans, who so often worship Ronald Reagan, would remember that Reagan gave undocumented immigrants amnesty in 1986. Despite his failures, Reagan was at least somewhat willing to resolve immigration in a humane way. But times have changed. That I, a liberal undocumented immigrant, have used the Reagan era as an example of better politics evidences this.
Despite the temporary protection that DACA provides me, I continue to live in fear. This current situation does little to reassure me. At any time my protection could be stripped from me, leaving me open to deportation. Even if I am not deported, my Yale degree could be rendered useless, as I would not be able to work anywhere.
Having received xenophobic and ignorant comments for most of my life, I can already see people saying that if I am so talented and have a Yale degree, then I should have no problem finding a job in “my country.” To them, I say that this — the United States of America — is my country. Second, your place of birth doesn’t determine what “your country” is. After all, people that are born in foreign nations but have one parent with a U.S. citizenship are themselves granted citizenship and all the privileges that come with it. Thus, where I was born is trivial because for 17-and-a-half years I have lived in the United States and respected its laws, loved its traditions and invested a life here. I dare say that I love this country and am more connected to it than even some U.S. citizens might be. It is here that I have been given incredible opportunities to further my life. It is here that I have transformed from an ambitious Latino in one of the most problematic communities in Los Angeles to a full-time Yale student looking to give back to my people, my city and my nation. I love this country so much that despite the many times that it has repeatedly oppressed me and denied me freedoms and rights, I continue to defend its principles and will continue to do so even as uncertainty continues to shadow my life.
Carlos Rodriguez Cortez | firstname.lastname@example.org