All families eventually have to have tough conversations. But when you’re undocumented, like my family, those conversations are tougher.
My family and I sit around the living room, each of us with unanswerable questions. What will we do when my DACA expires? How am I going to pay my bills? What do we do if I’m sent a deportation order? We discuss how to avoid trouble with the law and what to say and not say if I’m ever questioned by law enforcement.
I got my DACA application approved last year. I had just turned 19 when I found out. It was like a weight finally being lifted off my shoulders. It meant I could finally get my first job, transition from being dependent on my family for financial support to making my own income. Small things such as being able to buy a new phone, which to most people seems like an ordinary attainable object, was, to me, a milestone. Being able to purchase something with money I worked hard for was an achievement in and of itself. I was able to start helping my family with their financial needs.
But my happiness was short-lived. Since I got DACA, there’s been a constant legal back and forth about the future of the program. First the Trump Administration announced it would end it. Then a Federal Judge put a stay on that order. But the reality is, until a more permanent piece of legislation is passed by Congress, my future will remain uncertain.
At one point, I wondered if I had made a mistake applying for DACA. Was my name, and the names of the other 800,000 Dreamers going to be on a list for deportation? We’re the easiest targets, our names and addresses are at their disposal. All the government would need to do is send officers to these addresses to detain us and our families. Every day, I count down until my DACA expiration date.
Having these thoughts swirl around in my head was torture. I couldn’t escape the feeling that every time things in life were turning around, something out of my control had to throw another fastball at me.
Now, Congress may be working on an immigration compromise that could more permanently protect DACA and Dreamers like me — but some Republicans aren’t willing to see this as a humanitarian crisis, instead treating now as an opportunity to appeal to the most extreme sector of their base. They see this as a 4-for-1 deal. In exchange for preserving the program, some conservatives are asking for a $10 billion border wall, an end to “chain migration” and the visa lottery program, and a crackdown on sanctuary cities, in exchange for the protection of Dreamers.
I think of how a deal like that could put our undocumented parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents at risk. Yes, our dream is to remain here, in the only country I can remember. But as I sit in my living room looking at my mom and sister, I realize my dream is to have my family stay together.
As we talk, my mother tells me Dreamers are the priority, that she’s willing to support policies that protect us even if it puts her own safety at risk. Hearing her say that is heartbreaking. From the Muslim travel ban, to the phasing out of the DACA program, to the cancellation of the Temporary Protected Status for certain Central Americans and Haitians, it’s more dangerous now to be an undocumented immigrant in America than ever before.
The Trump Administration has put targets on our backs and opened up a Pandora’s box of prejudice and discrimination. And rather than be divided or think of the coming legislation as a potential reprieve for my fellow Dreamers, it feels like a Catch-22.
Sure, I’m safe… for now. But a new DACA deal can’t change the fact that the entire immigrant community seems to be under constant siege. And with every day that passes, we must ask ourselves, “Who’s next?”