Coming to terms with the disclosure of my story has been a predicament. On the one hand, I feel a moral responsibility to my fellow immigrants to come forth and relate my experience as an undocumented, and now DACAmented, person, with hopes of deconstructing the narrative that frames immigrants as a criminal threat to the American people. But on the other hand, my sense of duty and responsibility are countered by the realities of the current political climate in this country, where the threat of deportation rapidly materializes as President Trump continues to push his spiteful, anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.
It is for this reason that I have opted not to disclose my name and personal information at this moment, at least not until I consider it to be absolutely necessary. However, it must be said that the events I am about to relate unfolded in a border town located in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas.
I came to the U.S. as a 13-year-old in 2006. As most immigrants, I departed my country in hopes of finding better living conditions and opportunities. As I anticipated prior to my arrival, moving to a new country posed numerous challenges: from learning a new language and establishing relationships, to adapting to societal and cultural norms in a new environment.
Despite these barriers, I managed to maintain a high academic and athletic performance, and by the time I was a senior in high school, I had athletic scholarship offers for three different sports: cross country, soccer, and track. Unfortunately, due to my immigration status, I was unable to take advantage of these opportunities and was forced to forgo my dream of participating in intercollegiate athletics.
Coming into the U.S., I had hoped that being in a country in which there is infrastructure facilitating the transition from collegiate to professional sports would allow me to become a professional athlete. Being mindful of this, I committed my first five years in the U.S. to train and study rigorously. I would train two to three times per day, between four and five days per week in addition to race/game days.
Being so committed to my training and studies made it simple for me to develop my very own version of the American Dream and accept the meritocracy principle engrained in the brains of most Americans as they go through the educational system: “Hard work pays off.”
Having this outlook made my awakening a disheartening experience. It was at the point when I realized that intercollegiate athletics was no longer a possibility that I began to question the meritocracy principle. It then became evident that the amount of effort one puts into something does not necessarily determine that our objectives, goals, and/or dreams will come true. There are always factors outside of our control that can either positively or negatively affect the outcome of our plans, and it is precisely this role the one that immigration status can have in the lives of immigrants.
Although I became depressed near the end of my senior year upon realizing that I would not continue being an athlete in college, I managed to graduate from High School with honors and entered college in the Fall of 2011. While to this day I still believe it would have been possible for me to become a professional athlete had I continued my athletic involvement in college, I no longer preoccupy myself with “what could have been…”
Thanks to the creation of DACA in 2012, I was able to apply for a work permit and find employment in the U.S., positively contributing to the economy with the payment of fees towards immigration services and the collection of taxes from my paychecks. Finding employment enabled me to continue my education, eventually allowing me to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley.
The creation of DACA absolutely changed my life and is to be largely credited for what I have been able to achieve in the last five years. While I was able to matriculate in college prior to DACA, employment and access to educational opportunities outside of the Rio Grande Valley were practically unattainable prior to this program. Should President Trump opt to terminate DACA, disheartening stories of unfulfilled dreams would become a prevalent theme.
Currently, I am preparing to apply to a graduate program and hope to start classes in the Fall of 2018. If DACA were to be taken away, I would be once again cheated out of my dream, which is now to become a university professor and researcher.
Keeping DACA will not only guarantee that thousands of people like myself can pursue their objectives, ameliorating the number of unnecessary obstacles faced by members of immigrant communities across the country, but it will also guarantee economic and financial contributions from immigrants going into industrial and professional fields. Supporting DACA and the Dream Act are not only humane but necessary and convenient measures that benefit both immigrants and the American people as a whole.