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Opinion

Youth Voice: I am Not Your Good Immigrant

America's Promise Alliance

This story is part of the “90 for All” series, which examines the challenges facing traditionally underserved students, particularly low-income and homeless students, English learners, students of color, and students with disabilities.

To most people, I am a “Dreamer,” one of the 800,000 undocumented immigrants granted protection from deportation, the ability to work legally, and the opportunity to obtain a driver’s license under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. 

The DACA program has given me a lot of opportunities, a lot of privilege. By the age of 16 until the end of my high school career, I maintained a job at my local McDonald’s. My salary helped pay for my personal and family household expenses, therefore making the financial burden easier on my mother. The importance of being able to legally work became even more essential when I started to receive acceptance letters from universities in my senior year of high school.

My mother is responsible for my two younger siblings, and a salary from housekeeping is not nearly enough to put a daughter through college in one of the most expensive cities in the nation and simultaneously be responsible for two other children. The moment I left for college I knew I was on my own, at least economically speaking.

But I knew I wanted to attend a school that challenged me to become independent and be removed from my comfort zone, and when I was accepted to a prestigious university, I did not think twice about it. I left with confidence knowing I could make it through as long as I had the financial means to survive, which DACA has allowed me to do by enabling me to work legally throughout college.

For more youth perspectives on immigration, read “We Must Never Give Up.”

When the Trump administration announced that it might end DACA, it was at first devastating. As a junior, I am halfway done with my college career. The thought of pausing my education because I won’t have the financial means to continue became my most worrying thought. 

But then I realized how trivial a thought that was. What I really felt was anger, especially when I began to read what some news stories had to say about the Dreamers, and the narrative they spun of “good immigrants.”

News reports said we deserved better because it was not ultimately our decision, that our parents were the ones that broke the law. I realized that no program or “protection” that the government offers us is worth enough to criminalize our parents, our neighbors, those who made the difficult decision to leave their home country to find the opportunities their own country could not offer.

Protesters gather in support of DACA at Trump Tower in New York City. Photo credit: Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons.

Protesters gather in support of DACA at Trump Tower in New York City. Photo credit: Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons.

I am not better nor am I worse than the other 

Our entire undocumented community deserves to step out the shadows, not only a selected few. My mother deserves to go to work and run errands without the fear that she may get stopped by ICE and not see her children again. She deserves to not be afraid anymore.

DACA was never the solution, neither is any legislation that does not protect all of the undocumented community. I do not want to defend DACA, and although it granted me privilege and opportunities, I want the same for the rest for my community. 

The end of DACA will not be the end of an era, but the beginning of a new one. An era where we fight for all 11 million, not just the “good” few.

Learn more about the GradNation State Activation initiative

The GradNation State Activation initiative is a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson to increase high school graduation rates by encouraging statewide innovation and collaboration, sharing that knowledge and replicating what works, and developing successful models all states can replicate.

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