“During the week that marked eight years since President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” writes Claudia Marchan, executive director for Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors, and herself a DACA recipient, “the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump Administration to end DACA and allows DACA to stay!
“This is a huge win for the immigrant community, but it is not the end of the struggle,” she continues. reminding us that DACA is a temporary status. “As we reflect on this gratifying and surprising victory from the Supreme Court, I share with you the story of one DACA recipient; I share with you my story.”
They are ni de aquí ni de allá: neither from here, nor from there.
During the week that marked eight years since President Barack Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – a program that allows undocumented immigrant youth to apply for deferred action from deportation and obtain a work permit in the U.S – the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump Administration to end DACA and allowed DACA to stay!
This is a huge win for the immigrant community, but it is not the end of the struggle. As we reflect on this gratifying and surprising victory from the Supreme Court, I share with you the story of one DACA recipient; I share with you my story . . .
Growing up, I rarely felt different. I was reunited with my mom at the age of four and met my family, which included a new baby sister and a dad. The promise of family was what my mom reminded me of as I struggled to leave my grandmother’s side that day in August. Although my mom called me frequently to remind me that she would return, it was hard to leave Mama Socorro.
I didn’t feel different because my mom reminded me every single day why she had to make the decision to leave. She was in search of a better life for the two of us. You see, she had struggled her whole life to get her education, shelter, and food. Her dad, my grandfather, who passed away at the age of 35 when my mom was 14, sent her off to go to school in another town at the age of 12. When my mom tells us this story, she says “he didn’t have a formal education, he rode a horse, and ‘stole’ your grandmother at the age of 16, but somehow he knew that my future was not there in the rancho.”
I tell you this because this is where I come from, this is part of my story. The story of the struggle, pain, anger, and resilience of my mother is also my story. My mother immigrated to the United States at a time where she found immigration relief for herself. Not knowing the language and being afraid of what may happen to me as we were miles apart and separated by a border, she, unfortunately, couldn’t find immigration relief for me.
Today, I am “DACAmented,” and leading an immigration legal services nonprofit. I spend each day thinking not only of my struggles and pain but also of how these struggles and pain are present in close to 700,000 other “DACAmented” peers across the country. I know the opportunities we have had and of the opportunities that have been denied for those who were left out of DACA. I worry about the mixed status families and undocumented families that are denied safety and have been left out of all emergency funding during a world crisis. I think about all the immigrants in detention centers that have been separated from their families, denied asylum, and exposed to a deadly pandemic.
And now, I get to celebrate the close to 700,000 students, mothers, fathers, teachers, nurses, engineers, attorneys, accountants, scientists, community leaders, and especially those risking their lives every single day in front line jobs who can sleep better knowing that DACA is safe. Many of these DACAmented immigrants have risked their lives in front line jobs every single day throughout this pandemic while worrying about losing DACA protections every single night.
Throughout this pandemic, close to 700,000 of us have had to continue facing a world crisis with the threat of losing our status in this country. This reality left has left us short of living the American Dream and, instead, stuck in a nightmare. Today, we can celebrate waking up from this nightmare and, again, can have the opportunity to share in the American Dream.
Growing up, I rarely felt different. But I really am different. I have grown up in a country that continues to push me to the side, deny me of my rights, and seeks to send me back to my country of birth. The truth is that yes, I am different, and, frankly, I am “ni de aqui, ni de alla” – neither from here nor from there. I have lived in the United States for 33 of my 37 years of life. I went to kindergarten here, got my bachelor’s degree here, got my master’s degree here, got married here, had my children here, celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday here. This is where I fought the government for unjustly putting my dad in a detention center. I was born in Mexico and, since Mama Socorro passed away, the Mexico that I vaguely remember is not the same without her.
The Supreme Court decision today that blocks the Trump Administration from ending DACA is a huge win, but it is not the end of our struggle. DACA recipients and all undocumented immigrants need and deserve a pathway to citizenship. We need to embrace, welcome, and help immigrants live safely in the United States. As I saw the decision come in, my heart was beating fast, and tears of joy streamed down my face. For today we have won, but I invite you to demand and continue to work on comprehensive immigration reform for our immigrant communities and for a fair and just immigration system.
I invite you to join me in this fight.