10 Years Later After DACA, I'm Fighting to Thrive
It's hard to believe that the 10-year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is now upon us. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news. I was a young mom working odd jobs to provide for my children while living in a family shelter. I was 22 years old, and a better life seemed so far out of reach. While many other people my age were preparing to finish college and start careers, I was trying to survive. It was difficult to earn enough money to pay for childcare, let alone trying to think of taking time away from my young kids to go to school.
For years, I've dealt with the reality that my story as a DACA recipient is not the narrative you often hear.
For years, I've dealt with the reality that my story as a DACA recipient is not the narrative you often hear. At times, it made me question my own ability to share my story because I didn't fit a specific mold. I know now that is because there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to have DACA. I moved to the US from the Dominican Republic when I was 9. For years I struggled with what it meant to be undocumented in this country. Growing up, I didn't know of many other Dominicans who were open about their undocumented status. That often made it hard to find community and resources.
There have been many times when I didn't feel worthy compared to the narratives I was hearing about other DACA recipients. I was a young mom. I was living in a shelter with my kids. I didn't have a college degree. But I thought when I got DACA, that would all change. In 2014, after I first applied to DACA and got approved, I felt like I was finally able to have a "normal" life and get a good-paying job with the work permit DACA provided me. I also thought it would allow me more consistency and peace of mind in being able to provide for my children. I was able to get more consistent employment after I got DACA, but it was still harder to find a good-paying job because I didn't have a college degree.
A common misconception about DACA is that it is stable. DACA recipients have to renew their status every two years.
A common misconception about DACA is that it is stable. DACA recipients have to renew their status every two years. That comes with a cost of nearly $500 every two years. That was $500 that could have gone to groceries, Christmas presents, or doctor's bills. Aside from that, was the reality that there have been times when my DACA renewal didn't come in time, which led my work permit and deportation protection to lapse and led me to be laid off from my job. As an undocumented parent to US Citizen children, I often found myself having to explain to my kids why I couldn't leave the country to go with them to visit family in the Dominican Republic, or why I had lost my job waiting for a work permit DACA provided me.
While DACA did allow me some more consistency and peace of mind, the reality is that DACA is still temporary. The temporary nature of DACA was clear to me when my DACA renewal was delayed, but also when I was reading news story after news story about politicians trying to end the program. As an undocumented mother, one of the hardest conversations I've ever had to have with my young children was trying to explain to them that we could be separated if I were to be detained or deported.
Now, 10 years after I first applied for DACA, the 22-year-old young mom living in a family shelter feels like a lifetime away. Now I am not simply trying to survive, but I am fighting to thrive. One of my biggest dreams is to become an immigration attorney to help others like me. Now, at 32, I am so much closer to that dream than I have ever been. I was recently awarded the Dream US scholarship which will allow me to go to college this fall to major in political science.
As I reminisce on 10 years of DACA, I am reminded of the young organizers who came before me who made this all possible.
As I reminisce on 10 years of DACA, I am reminded of the young organizers who came before me who made this all possible. I celebrate them. They have shown us what is possible when we come together and have demanded what we deserve. But reminiscing on 10 years of DACA, I am also reminded that a decade (and more) of living your life in constant uncertainty is a pain no one should ever have to experience. DACA is temporary, but I and others like me are here to stay. We are all deserving of dignity, and we all have rights. It is time that politicians work to provide permanent protections for millions of undocumented people living in this country. DACA is not enough for our communities, and we need more so that no one has to live with the threat of detention, deportation, and family separation.