On September 5, 2017, President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that dramatically changed the lives of 800,000 young adults, including myself. They call us Dreamers. We grew up in America, went to school in America, and live our lives as Americans. In our hearts, we are Americans. The only difference is that we were not born in America.
In the last five years, DACA allowed me to pursue my American Dream, it allowed me to finally come out of the shadows and embrace my identity as an American and as an immigrant. It allowed me, for the first time, to start a professional career with employment options and be financially independent. DACA gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams, just like any other American.
Sadly, all of that can be taken away if the Dream Act is not passed by Congress. A Dream Act would give people like me—the Dreamers—a pathway to citizenship.
If the Dream Act does not pass, I lose my DACA status and my worker permit will expire. Once my worker permit expires, I will no longer be able to legally work in the country I call home. I will no longer have a job—a job I am passionate about—or be financially independent. I will be forced to leave my community and no longer be an advocate for the Latino community members who call Telluride home. I will lose my driver’s license, and go back to being an undocumented immigrant, subject to deportation by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. These are the fears Dreamers are faced with if the Dream Act doesn’t get passed.
Through my work as the Cultural Navigator with Tri-County Health Network, I was connected to Colorado staff for FWD, an organization that works on immigration policy at the Federal level. FWD invited me to travel to Washington DC twice to advocate for passing a clean Dream Act. I met with Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, Congressman Mike Coffman, Representative Jared Polis, Congressman Ken Buck, and Congresswoman Diana DeGette to share my story. On my way to these meetings, my emotions were all over the spectrum—I felt anxious, excited, nervous, and proud. It was highly emotional. I shared my personal DACA story with my United States Senators and Representatives and felt empowered to speak my truth on the impact the DACA policy has had on my life for the past five years.
FWD helped me get in front of those politicians and other leaders. They gave DACA recipients like me a sense of all the other Dreamers from around the country, many of whom are like me and work as advocates for all Dreamers. I did not feel alone. We were all there to share our stories and make our voices heard and joining together to ask Congress to listen, act, and pass a clean Dream Act. This experience was uplifting because it gave me the courage to speak out and share my story. It was also inspiring to learn I am not the only one fighting this fight—there are 800,000 DACA recipients, and every day their stories inspire me to continue to advocate for myself and for them.
During my second trip to DC in January there was an announcement that Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered a halt to the federal government’s termination of the DACA program. Alsup granted a preliminary injunction, a temporary order while the case goes forward, and requiring that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services begin accepting DACA renewal applications again. This was an important victory, but Congress must still make the protections permanent through the bipartisan Dream Act. I don’t want to feel like I have an expiration date on me, counting down the days until I fall out of status. It is important to have a permanent solution and give all the Dreamers like me peace of mind.
Bringing Dreamers’ voices to DC has given me the strength to continue to share my DACA story to everyone I encounter and educate citizens on why the Dream Act needs to get passed. A Dream Act will allow me, and nearly a million others, to continue to live our America Dream. We are undocumented, unapologetic, and unafraid.
By Claudia Garcia, Cultural Navigator