The writer of this article is a Cal State Long Beach student who has requested anonymity.
Five years ago, just weeks before I graduated from high school, I was contemplating how my life was going to be once I finished school. Being an undocumented student, I turned down the opportunity to go study at UC Merced. The reason had to do with money because I was not able to receive financial aid to pay off my education. At that time, undocumented students did not qualify for financial aid such as FAFSA or Cal Grants and the only scholarships were offered through non-state funds. It was not until 2013 that Dreamers were able to obtain a Cal Grant through the California Dream Act.
DACA has given many undocumented immigrants the opportunity to improve our lives. If the Trump administration revokes the program now, I will face the familiar feeling of discouragement that I had before DACA.
Nearing high school graduation, I remained lost and desperate, with no idea what the future would hold for me. School seemed too expensive to pay for out of my own pocket, and with no job it made the situation more difficult.
Just when I started losing hope, I received a call on a Saturday morning in June from a friend who was in the same situation. I remember he said, “Ya escuchaste las noticias?” Have you heard the news? I said “No, not yet. What’s the matter?”
He told me that President Obama had signed an executive order to launch Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy that enables certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children to receive a work permit and temporary, renewable protection from deportation.
A sense of hope came back to me after that phone call. I knew I was eligible to apply for this program. Thirteen years ago, I began a new life alongside my family after moving to the United States from Aguascalientes, Mexico.
At the age of 10, I promised myself that I would take advantage of the opportunities this country gave me, and this was one of them that I could not pass on.
The news completely changed my life for the better. I knew it was only a matter of time before new opportunities opened for me. I had to apply quickly to get the work permit that would allow me to get my first job and, with that, I was able to get my driver’s license and financial aid to go to college.
A couple months after applying for DACA, I received the approval and right away started looking for jobs. I felt such relief knowing that I could finally help my mother pay rent and bills. I enrolled at a community college to continue my education as I pursued my career goals.
Five years later, I have taken advantage of what DACA gave me. I am known as a Dreamer (after the DREAM Act, a bill that never fully passed in Congress, that would have protected young undocumented immigrants like me). And I will always be because I never stop dreaming. My dreams consist of achieving the American dream, and proving wrong those who doubt DACA recipients.
If it wasn’t for this opportunity, I wouldn’t have been hired by companies or finished my education. After I finish the fall semester, I will be graduating from California State University, Long Beach, and I don’t think that would have been possible if it wasn’t for DACA.
In fact, 94 percent of beneficiaries say they couldn’t have accessed better educational opportunities without DACA and their average wages have also jumped from $10.29 to $17.46 per hour, helping our families and local economies, thanks to the program, according to a national survey headed by Tom K. Wong, professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Now, with reports of President Trump likely to get rid of DACA, everything could come down in the blink of an eye. Dreamers are living with the fear that this policy could be revoked and harm their future because we can’t afford to lose our permit to work legally. Hundreds of thousands of people like me rely on this policy to work, continue our education, and live free without the fear of getting deported.
Now that DACA is in imminent danger, it is important to continue the fight in order to continue contributing to our families, communities, and this country that has giving us the chance to show our potential. Yes, I am a Dreamer, but I turn my dreams into reality. “La lucha continua.” The fight continues.