Telling My Son About My DACA Status
What I'm Telling My Son About My DACA Status
Ten years ago, I was living in Washington DC when the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was first announced on June 15, 2012. That summer, I landed an unpaid internship during my junior year of college. Unpaid internships were all I was able to get at the time because I was undocumented. My mom and sister were visiting me in DC that week, and I took them to the National Museum of American History, which was one of my favorite Smithsonian museums to visit in the city. I was standing in front of The Dolls' House when my mom, teary-eyed, rushed over with a text she received from a friend telling her about President Obama's Rose Garden announcement. We didn't know much about the DACA program yet, but as we hugged and celebrated, we could all feel that our lives were about to change.
When we got back to their hotel, we looked up the video of his speech on our laptop. The next day we emailed our immigration lawyer, and in less than two months, my sister and I had our applications ready to go. Getting DACA meant that I was able to graduate without the threat of deportation looming over my head and start my career back in DC. My sister, who is five years younger, was in high school and was able to apply to college to study hospitality and then start her dream job at Disney.
Years later, on the night Trump was elected, I stayed up all night going through the different scenarios in my head of what could happen if he followed through on his campaign promise to end DACA. I cried on the phone with my dad, my mom, and my sister. A few months later, I left my job at a public relations firm to work at United We Dream — the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country — because I couldn't just sit by anymore.
When Trump ended DACA, the threat of deportation loomed over our heads once again during those four years. But we fought with everything we had, and I'll never forget the joy and relief we felt when we won legal cases, including the Supreme Court case in 2020 that currently protects existing DACA recipients.
Last year, when my husband and I decided to have a baby, I felt so grateful to have DACA because it meant I had access to quality healthcare for my prenatal and postnatal care. It meant I had 12 weeks of paid maternity leave from my employer. It meant I had access to a therapist to support me through postpartum anxiety, and it meant I could afford childcare when I returned to work. All of this should be the norm for every person living in this country, but it's not.
I don't take DACA for granted. Since I first heard about DACA, I learned just how hard immigrant youth activists and families organized and pushed President Obama to win the largest immigration protection in over 40 years. I know how hard we've worked to keep the program in place despite constant Republican attacks. But while I first left my job to fight for DACA, the reality is we aren't fighting to protect a program, we are fighting to protect people.
The hard truth is that DACA has me, and hundreds of thousands like me, living in limbo, and that's become even harder to bear now that I have a son. He is too young to understand that my current immigrant status could mean we could be separated in the future. He's too young to understand that our government refuses to acknowledge the full humanity of his immigrant mom, aunt, and grandparents. His reality is one that other US citizen children live with, as over 300,000 US-born children have at least one parent with DACA.
When my son is old enough to understand the whole story, I'm hopeful that I'll be telling him how we won citizenship legislation for millions.
When my son is old enough to understand the whole story, I'm hopeful that I'll be telling him how we won citizenship legislation for millions. I'll tell him that it was people like his mom, young people at United We Dream, and millions of immigrant organizers who were undocumented and unafraid of demanding elected officials to protect people from the terror of detention and deportation.