Often, we speak of time as something we are in control of. Unfortunately, “I’ll do that next time,” or “take your time” are such common phrases that for many DACA recipients, they now carry a different value. Time or perhaps the feeling that we must work against the clock creates a sense of hopelessness as time only seems to keep passing by. Now more than ever, we must keep the DREAM alive and urge Congress to take action and realize whatan asset our immigrant community truly is to this country.
After the announcement that DACA would be phased out in six months, I couldn’t help but think about all the amazing individuals I knew first hand would be impacted. From the leaders I have met during the last few years, through grassroots campaigns, to the 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, all these trailblazers, living their dreams all while helping those around them fulfill their own are now having to deal with the worst nightmare of all: the fear of losing their opportunity to continue living 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, represents the kind of man I hope my brother turns out to be: hardworking, relentless, tenacious, focused and most importantly, driven. Given that my little 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. The difference between my brother and him however would be that my brother would not have to worry about working so hard only to one day wake up to the news that his dreams were being forced to take a pause as his life was at risk of taking a different turn due to immigration policy.
While Juan is blessed to be surrounded by a strong support network and counts with the mentorship of the relentless chingona activist, Alma Marquez, 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 and rather kept him motivated to continue working harder towards his goals yet his future is now threatened by the misconceptions that led thisadministration to think that ending DACA was the right thing to do. As Alma Marquez shared with the LA Times , “There needs to be a fire that awakens people to tell their stories. Enough is enough…There are so many things about [me] as a person, aside from a status I 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.
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