Often, we speak of time as something we are in control of. Unfortunately, “I’ll do that next time,” or, “take your time,” aren’t options for recipients of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program.
The feeling that we must work against the clock creates a sense of hopelessness as time only seems to keep passing. Now more than ever, we must keep the DREAM alive and recognize what an asset our immigrant community truly is to this country.
After the announcement that DACA would be phased out in March 2018, I couldn’t help but think about all the amazing individuals I know firsthand who are impacted. They are leaders I have met during the last few years through grassroots campaigns. They are teachers working to serve underrepresented communities all while taking the time to host free immigration clinics on the weekends to help their students and families know about their rights.
These trailblazers are living their dreams all while helping those around them fulfill their own. But now they have to deal with the worst nightmare of all: the fear of losing their American dream.
Of all the faces that captured my attention, none stood out more than the story of Juan Casas in La Opinion. Juan, in many ways, is the kind of man I hope my little brother turns out to be: hardworking, relentless, tenacious, focused and, most importantly, driven. Given that my brother aspires to one day be an electrical engineer and work for an aerospace company, Juan’s success as an engineer living exactly that dream after years of sacrifice and hard work was inspiring.
However, there’s a big difference between my brother and Juan. My brother does not have to worry about working so hard only to one day wake up to the news that his dreams are being forced to take a pause because of immigration policy.
Juan is blessed to be surrounded by a strong support network, including the mentorship of the relentless chingona activist, Alma Marquez. But it is hard not to acknowledge that even with all the support behind him, his new reality is a hard pill to swallow.
As a teacher, I am guilty of feeding students the notion that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible and all dreams are achievable. But is that true?
Juan exemplifies the story of the boy who worked his way through college and beat the odds working against him. His immigration status was not a crutch. Rather, it kept him motivated to continue working toward his goals yet his future is now threatened by the misconceptions that led this administration to think that ending DACA was the right thing to do.
As Alma Marquez shared with the Los Angeles Times,
“There needs to be a fire that awakens people to tell their stories. Enough is enough… There are so many things about [them] as a person, aside from a status [they]f have no control over.”
DACA allows for individuals like Juan to be more than their status, to achieve more and live up to their true potential. The end of DACA not only jeopardizes the lives of over 800,000 DACA recipients, it puts into jeopardy the future of our country and the future of our communities—because immigrants are the ones who get the job done.
Without our effort, this country would fall apart.