After a too long pause in writing (or at least editing)….I am back at it. When I hear people discuss DACA I don’t think of these people in a group……I think of their individual stories. I think of a spunky, fun loving young lady that my husband coached in volleyball. I think of Zulema…….
My name is Zulema. I was born in Michoacán, Mexico, and I am 20 years old. I was brought to the U.S shortly after my fifth birthday along with my brother and sister, who were also very young. My dad had already been to the U.S. a couple of times in an effort to support our family and give us things he never had as a child. While we stayed behind with our mother, she did everything she could to make sure we were okay. With our dad being thousands of miles away from it wasn’t easy for her, and we knew it.
When my dad returned to Mexico, he told us about how great of a country the U.S. was, and how many opportunities that were out there. We would listen to his stories about this country with such awe and amazement, wishing and hoping that one day we could visit this place. After being away from us for so long, my dad decided that it was finally time for us to be all together again. This time it would be in America. I remember being scared to leave my home, but also excited to see the country my dad spoke so highly of. My five-year-old self didn’t know what to think except that I was happy we would all be reunited with my dad. So on March 1st, 2002, our journey for a better life as a family began in the City of Los Angeles.
I remember as we first settled into our tiny apartment. My siblings were so excited to start school, unfortunately I was too young to go myself. I remember feeling sad and left out because of my young age, although it was something I couldn’t control. After three months my dad spoke to a friend from Visalia. He offered my dad a job and a place for us to stay, until we were able to support our family on our own. After several long months had passed, we were able to afford a small apartment that had just enough room for the five of us. Just across the street from our apartment was an elementary school that my siblings and I would be attending. I was filled with excitement when I found out I’d finally be going to school. I couldn’t wait to learn English and make new friends.
As I got older I started to understand more what it meant to be an “illegal immigrant.” My parents would tell us not to tell anyone that we were born in Mexico. We lived in fear of the chance that everything my parents had worked so hard to give us, could be taken away. Despite this, we continued on with our education and made sure we always stayed out of trouble. Growing older it became harder to deal with because I realized there were things I wouldn’t be able to do because of my status. This meant I couldn’t get health insurance, a license, or even a job. We knew the process of becoming a U.S. citizen was not an easy one, and that we would be on a 20 year waiting list. Still, we were hopeful that one day all of our dreams and aspirations would come true.
In 2008, Obama was elected as president and I was ecstatic. I thought maybe this would be the president who would help immigrants like me. Unfortunately, four years had passed and not much changed. I was still living each day in fear of deportation. The year DACA was passed was when everything changed. Through DACA, I was protected. I was allowed to work and I was able get my driver’s license. My heart was filled with joy.
As Obama’s last term was ending in 2016 and a new president was going to be elected, I began to get anxious. Donald Trump had talked about ending DACA, which threatened not only my dreams, but the dreams of 800,000 other DACA recipients. All the progress to help young immigrants like me, would soon be taken away from us. My heart sank. Many people don’t realize how important this is to us. We are normal people who have dreams, ambitions, jobs, and are actively working towards a better life. Becoming a U.S. citizen is our goal, but it’s not as easy as going to a fast food restaurant, telling them what you want and them giving it to you. What DACA has given me is the chance to pursue my dream of becoming a cosmetologist, and I’m so grateful for that.
On September 5th, 2017, President Donald Trump moved forward with the decision to end DACA. As of now I’m only safe from deportation until my DACA expires. I can only pray that Congress acts with an open heart and hears the pleas of hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” like myself. The United States is my home, and to take my home away from me would be unjustifiable. I am here to stay. I am a person, not just an immigration status.