Jan. 24, 2018 – My name is America, and I am a DREAMer. I came to this country with my family from Mexico City when I was five years old. Now I live in Las Vegas, where I study criminal justice and philosophy. Soon I’ll be in law school, and hopefully one day, a judge.
None of this would be possible without Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which President Obama signed in 2012, and Trump revoked last September. Since then, my dream and the dreams of thousands of others have been thrown into limbo.
When DACA was first announced, my dad started crying. As a junior in high school, I didn’t realize how much it meant to our family. But soon, I did – for the first time, I was able to get a driver’s license, a job, and pay for my own things. I could apply for college, and go on school trips, just like everyone else. For the first time, I came out of the shadows. I could start to imagine a future. DACA was the key to my future.
No Free Ride
My family has always believed in hard work – no one’s ever asked for a free ride. My mom and dad are both cooks, and my dad has always had two full-time jobs, so he’d have enough to pay for my education, and that of my two sisters, Naomi and Amber. After all, that’s why we came here – for educational opportunity.
My parents didn’t realize when they first came to the United States that you had to have a Social Security number to enroll in university, so their dreams got deferred. But it’s always been their top priority for me and my sisters, and DACA has made that dream a reality.
At UNLV, I do everything I can to help undocumented students, because it’s very hard to get accurate information, or to get the experience we need – like internships – to start a career. It’s really hard for undocumented people to step up and admit their status, much less to ask for help, because they’ve lived in fear for so long. Failing to restore DACA would send a whole generation back into the shadows.
The “What Ifs”?
From a young age, we’ve had hard conversations about the future, and what might happen if our family were ever separated. We call these conversations “What Ifs” – because as a mixed-status family, everything could change for us with a knock on the door. My parents have always insisted that if they were ever forced to leave, my sisters and I should stay. After all, they are U.S. citizens.
My family is far from an exception – many families affected by the current chaos of immigration laws have both documented and undocumented members. Deporting immigrants affects everyone around them – what happens to the moms and dads, the businesses where they work, and the schools where they teach? What happens to the children, many of them U.S. citizens, they provide for?
Now, we have to deal with a new, big “What If,” since Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats stepped away from their promise to protect DREAMers in exchange for a deal to keep government open. What did they get in return? Another promise, this time from GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that he “intends” to address DACA by February 8.
That’s a lot of promises. And a big, big “What If.”
Door to Door
During the 2016 elections, I got the chance to go door to door here in Nevada, and talk with voters. I was surprised how positive most people, both Democrats and Republicans, are about DREAMers and other immigrants – these are their their neighbors and co-workers, and they know how much we contribute to the community. In Nevada, at least, people know our country would not be the same without all the immigrants who are here.
So I’ve got news for Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and all our elected officials – get ready, we’re coming to the polls. My sisters are still in high school, so won’t vote in this November’s election – but soon enough, they will. So will thousands of others like them, who believe in the American Dream, for our family and for everyone. They will hold you accountable for the choices you make now.
Lawmakers now have seventeen more days to fix DACA. With every day that passes, thousands of DREAMers lose their status, and fall into limbo.
Let’s see if Mitch and Chuck are as good and their word, and keep their promises. Fixing the DREAM Act may not be urgent for you, but it’s urgent for thousands of American families, businesses, and communities, and for immigrants like me whose lives and futures hang in the balance.
Mitch and Chuck, we need to know if you, too, believe in the American Dream, or if your leadership turns out to be just another big, empty “What If.”
America Reyes is a DREAMer and student at University of Nevada in Las Vegas, and a leader at Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and People’s Action.
The Campaign for America’s Future is the strategy center for the progressive movement. Our goal is to forge the enduring progressive majority needed to realize the America of shared prosperity and equal opportunity that our country was meant to be. www.ourfuture.org