An immigrant at 12, her future hinges on DACA

The is a first-hand account of one young woman’s struggle as an immigrant in the United States.

I came to the USA when I was 12 years old. I have been here for 12 years now. And in 2012 DACA became available, granting me the opportunity to apply and become a “DACAmented” student and worker. (DACA refers to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides certain young immigrants a temporary  reprieve from deportation and permission to work.)

At the age of 9, I was given the task to take care of my younger brother and sister back in our homeland while my mother made her way across the desert to meet with my father who had been here long before that. She didn’t have the strength to say goodbye. So she sneaked out late at night and made her way here.

During that time, we only got a phone call a week with specific instructions, chores and how to take care of each other. I was a small adult who would follow as told with the solid purpose that we would someday be reunited.

We were apart for 3 years.

At age 12, I developed an identity crisis. I was no longer the fake parent to my siblings, but a teenager with an anger problem in middle school, learning as fast as possible.

Being in the academic system in America was simple. Our task was to go to class, listen attentively, learn the language, learn the culture and go back home to teach our parents. I had to watch my brother and sister grow and lead a new life, and, at the same time watch my parents being humiliated and discriminated against. I quickly became a translator, a complainer and a debater for my father and mother.

Following tasks was easy; I had  a purpose, I had the tools, the  values and I was  standing in the land  of  the  free. Until I  learned about my label: “Illegal  Alien.”

At  home, everyone’s day begins  at 5 a.m. Shame on you if you are  still in bed by 5:30. Everyone’s  day ends around 8 p.m., except for my  father, who is lucky if he’s home by  10 p.m. It’s no different from having  been in separate countries.

I got a job at 15, my parents bought a home and we moved out of a one bedroom apartment at last.  I applied for college and started a second job. Still  illegal, still  from  another world.

DACA came  along. There was  hope. I got a better job and a second one to help my parents after  my mom was fired when they  found out her immigration status.  Somehow, no matter how much I  did, people continued to treat me  like the sign I carried in my head:  DACAmented Alien.

I became scared of the lengths people would go to in order to make me feel inferior and keep  my family and me in a modern slave circle, like rats in a lab with a piece  of cheese hanging from a very thin  thread.

I stand here as a survivor of those fears — the fear of not being  enough,  the  fear  of  not  being worthy. The same fear that led me  to believe that the purpose of my life was to prove that I was human  enough and that I was deserving  enough of  a fair chance to a better education and a better life for  me and my family. And  it  was  not  something that I could ever understand — why I needed to prove  something that was common sense  among all human beings.

After the words of hate had cut  me, the humiliation of my father and mother had affected me and  the actions of racism blinded by  ignorance had hurt me, I finally  gathered the strength to ask my  father the question everyone at  school and everywhere I went had  asked me: What are you doing  here? Why did you come here?

My father looked at me as if I  had insulted him, as if I was ungrateful.

He explained that he had been  given the task of survival, that his intention was never to flee his land.  But that to be heard, people will  ask you what you do for a living  so they can calculate the amount  of respect (respect  grants  you  a  voice) they will give you. That being poor in a country corrupted,  where they are fighting a fight against gang  members, violence  and other crimes a poor person  doesn’t stand a chance. That wasn’t  our fight. That fight was between people that were greedy, that just  wanted power. My father had no  other choice than to leave and keep  us safe.

He said that the way we could  fight that fight was to come to another land where opportunity and  dreams were a thing. We were  going to get educated, prepare, work  hard and someday we would  go back and claim our chance to  express ourselves and make a  difference. Sometimes hunger becomes  the fuel for dreams.

My father calls that the fight  with the white (clean) gloves. Because our dreams were NOT going to be built at the expense of others  lives. The fight in our country and  between countries was not meant  to be with guns or knives, but that  they had made that choice. And I believe that my parent’s words are  true. That we are all fighting what we chose.

Our own fights, our beliefs  and  even the hate that you sometimes  carry in your heart is ours, created by ideas and perceptions of  imaginary borders that our leaders who  have bought, not  earned, respect  abused their voices and used them  to create fear upon us. As a result,  we have dehumanized one another  and forgotten that we are people  and that we are all the same.

My father’s task was survival, my  task now is to search for purpose,  meaning and fulfillment of my dreams. What a luxury of mine.

It’s hard to build a set future with  an uncertain status. Watching  DACA getting juggled around like   it wasn’t my reality and the reality  of others, but a luxury to at least have a tiny choice. It’s even harder  to build a future with NO status,   not knowing if you will get a call that your parents are detained  and getting ready to be shipped back to a place they were  forced to leave.  Watching the little that you have  EARNED being taken away like  nothing and have NO choice.

There is no bigger struggle than  meeting your parents’ expectations. Not the part of earning your goals; anyone determined enough can do  that. But the part of doing so never at the EXPENSE of others.

I sit here and watch the rest build  their goals at the expense of my father’s work. At the expense  of traumatizing children as  they come home to no parents, at the expense  of people dying crossing borders.

No it is not that they are better. It’s privilege. No one got a choice  to be born where they decided. We  got what was given. But it doesn’t  mean that it has to remain that way.    It is time that people take responsibility for the massacres of  people throughout history caused by who  WE CHOOSE to respect and give  a  voice to.

I hope that all of us get a chance  to look the next generation of  children in the eyes the same way  I look at my father and say that we  stood for the values of a land  founded on the sweat and hard  work of yours and my ancestors. ANCESTORS  that  had  decided  that the world was ONE to explore,  one to build, to grow, to share and  to love. To LOVE people, ALL  PEOPLE. A land that gave anyone the right to dream, where hate,  labels,  colors  were  forgotten. That the last war was the one  we ended. And to be proud of the  America that we watched flourish.

I am a DACAmented student  and worker; I  am a Mexican; I am  an American. I am the daughter of fighters,  the  mentee  of  strong  women. I am a human, a believer  in fairness, kindness and love. A  believer of dreams. The dreams  of my parents: The  ORIGINAL  DREAMERS.

CLEAN  DREAM  ACT  NOW.  Thank  you.

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