What It Means to Be Black and Undocumented Without DACA
The Reality of Being Black, Undocumented, and Never Qualifying For DACA
For as long as I can remember, migration has been a part of my story. I was born in the Dominican Republic, a country with a history of US military intervention and deplorable conditions for Black communities. Growing up, I saw my loved ones forced to make hard choices to migrate and leave our home for different places in order to sustain our family. Having to constantly adjust to a different environment led me to struggle to fit in almost my entire life, navigating different educational systems, languages, ideas, and communities. Adapting myself as an immigrant and a Black woman was eye-opening, yet very traumatizing. It took a lot of strength for me to understand every truth and defy every adversity only to find myself in a place where my presence was not wanted even before I arrived. This is what it feels like to live fully undocumented.
I came to the United States in 2017, five years after the deadline to qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and a year after Trump's attempt to terminate the program. Since DACA has never been an option for me, it meant I've had to live with no type of protection from deportation. When I first learned what it meant to be undocumented, I remember the fear I felt just leaving my house to go to school. I remember the fear I felt just waiting for my mother to come back from work. I remember the fear being driven by the reality that as a Black woman, I could be stopped by police, which could lead to my deportation. A constant uncertainty regarding my well-being, as well as my family's, remains in my heart every day. It reminds me that many people like myself are ineligible for DACA because of arbitrary rules and cutoff dates. We are the reminder that DACA has never gone far enough to fully protect undocumented communities.
As a Black undocumented woman, there are no laws in this country that protect me from deportation yet barely any that protect me from issues like police brutality.
As a Black undocumented woman, there are no laws in this country that protect me from deportation yet barely any that protect me from issues like police brutality. Adding to that is the constant distress of being more vulnerable to encounters with law enforcement, violence, and poverty, and how they disproportionately increase my risks of contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Consequently, creating awareness about my status has been a hard task, as Black people are often excluded from these conversations and communities still fail to understand our existence. As a result, living fully undocumented has limited my experience even within the immigrant community. This is despite the reality that immigration is a Black issue. Studies have shown the impact of being Black and undocumented. Black immigrants face detention and deportation at higher rates than non-Black immigrants. A report by the Black Alliance on Just Immigration found that between 2003 and 2015, Black immigrants made up 10 percent of immigrations in deportation proceedings, despite being only six percent of the undocumented population at that time.
My immigration status does not define me, and as a result, I have found ways to thrive and pursue my dreams.
In spite of the struggles, I have come to find there's beauty in my resilience. My immigration status does not define me, and as a result, I have found ways to thrive and pursue my dreams. I am committed to creating national and local change for immigrant communities through my community organizing. I attend college, I plan on publishing my first book, I created the first organization for undocumented students at my HBCU, and I have been able to help inspire many other undocumented people who have found the courage to come out to the world and make their voices heard. Our existence is awareness, and as draining and disheartening as the fight seems, everything around who we are has been and will always be politicized by this nation. Being silent is not a luxury undocumented immigrants can enjoy, since we are our own advocates. There's power in unity and power in the people.
Reflecting on the 10-year anniversary of DACA, as someone who never qualified, I believe that my dreams are valid and worthy of protection. We need solutions that adjust to the needs of everyone in the immigrant community, and young leaders like myself continue to fight on the frontlines to make this possible, following the steps of the youth that over a decade ago fought to make DACA a reality. I am fighting for a world where everyone can live free and thrive.