Five Years After DACA Was Created, My Life Is Transformed

Lisette Diaz, a DACA recipient, at her Harvard graduation.

Five years ago today, I was having a pretty good day. I was still riding the high of getting into Harvard. I had a date for prom, and I had just gotten my dream prom dress. I was on my way home from the store with my mom when I got a frantic phone call from my best friend.

I didn’t have very good service, but I could make out the gist of what she was yelling: new law, papers for Dreamers. I didn’t believe it. I turned on the Spanish radio, and there it was, DACA. President Obama had created a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to give young undocumented people like me, who had come to the country as children, temporary permission to work and live here without fearing deportation.

My parents and I immigrated to the United States from Chile when I was 6 years old. Just like other immigrants, they wanted a better life. My mom told me I was undocumented very early on, to fuel my aspirations in school. I knew there was no way I would be able to afford to go to college without a full scholarship, so it pushed me to be the best.

Being a young undocumented person means constant uncertainty. It means existing in the space between two worlds, walking on a thin line of wanting and needing, but at the same time hating the invisibility that comes with a lack of legal status. “Dreamers” is what they call us.” We are individuals brought to the United States as young children and raised as Americans. But while we navigate our American identities, shadows loom in our futures.

DACA is a Band-Aid we put on the deep wound that is our nation’s immigration policy. We will continue to bleed through it until we find a real solution.

As adulthood approaches, childhood’s blanket of equality that shields most undocumented individuals begins to slip. Entering young adulthood means getting your license, driving, having a job, applying to college. All things that felt — and in some cases were — impossible to me because of my undocumented status. And this is when you start fading into invisibility: in part because of a society that refuses to see you as equal and in part because of the actions you have to take to protect yourself.

You don’t draw attention to yourself because you don’t want your friends to keep asking why you haven’t gotten your license yet. You hide your depression from the rest of the world because you don’t want their pity, and you certainly don’t want them to find out why you can’t just apply for financial aid to go to college.

And then came DACA. President Obama announced the program about two weeks before I graduated high school — right around the time when I started to wonder how I was going to pay for all of the books and other expenses that come with going to a different state for college. Disbelief turned into elation. It seemed that after years of drowning in uncertainty and the fear of a fast-approaching deadline only I could see, my life was finally coming together. And then I looked over and I saw my mom. She was crying. She was happy. Something was going right. Her sacrifices were justified.

Being DACA-mented is not the same as having long-term legal status. It puts you on the bottom of the priority list for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and allows you to obtain work authorization. Having that work permit in my hand meant everything. I knew that at least when I graduated college, I could look forward to starting a career.

But for many of us who have DACA, it’s a way of living our lives in some semblance of peace. Having “papers” means I can work, which means I can help support my family. But it also gives me great pride. It means that I don’t need to live in the shadows. I don’t need to hide. It means that all of the years I spent pushing myself in school weren’t wasted. It means that the life I have in the U.S. is worth something. I am able to contribute to my community.

But the biggest impact, by far, is that DACA gives me and many others the courage to be open and publicly share our experiences of the undocumented struggle. Not everyone is so lucky. While I can now feel more comfortable driving by a police car, the same cannot be said for my parents and millions of other parents and other undocumented people across the country. DACA is a Band-Aid we put on the deep wound that is our nation’s immigration policy. We will continue to bleed through it until we find a real solution.

Today is DACA’s five-year anniversary. In the past five years, hundreds of thousands of people like me have come out of the shadows and are building their lives and enriching their communities and the people around them. President Trump has promised to maintain the DACA program, but since his election, some people’s DACA has been rescinded. Now, more than ever before, it is essential that we keep fighting for those still invisible and those like me whose whole lives depend on this program.

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voncile

You know this temporary 'daca' status is just that, right? TEMPORARY. And that it include just you, not your family. Right?
Rules and Laws change every day. Have you ever wondered why Obama created 'daca' with a two year renewal requirement? Have you every wondered why he didn't just make it permanent from the beginning, I mean, he cared about you soooo much, Right?
Let me paint you a picture. Obama is a conniving goat. He knew one day he would be replaced with someone that would have to come in and clean up the messes he made in our country for the past 8 years. He used you and others like you as pawns to further his agenda and you are to blind to see it. You, and others, think he is your friend, but he is not. Sad for you!

macckkyy

Don't listen to this voncile guy. I don't know where the haters crawl out of so quickly. I'm DACAmented as well and he's obviously never felt our experiences or has close friends who have struggled to live whilst being immigrants. The pain of having only known one country yet never feeling like you truly belonged there. The world had us labeled as Illegal Aliens (or undocumented for a euphemism) and most didn't have the most positive reaction to that word. The fear of deportation to a country we knew nothing of except through our parents as well as the fear of knowing it would be years until we would gain re-entry.

as for voncile, he must have skipped out on why Obama had to do an executive order. He knew people like us were in a fucked up position and tried to pass legislation granting us complete amnesty but was unable to do so. I don't know what he means by 'using' us. You can also tell that from the grammar and horrible sentence structure of his rant that he probably never graduated like college, like you and I. We've achieved more and led a more adventurous narrative of our lives in our left pinky than he has in his whole body.
Live on!

P.S. Congrats on graduating from goddam Harvard. That's insane.

Anonymous

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Grady Thompson

Ever dollar you take is a dollar you have stolen from a deserving US citizen. Our schools are overrun with illegals who cost double to educate against the avg citizen. You and your parents are criminals and will be deported. Make it easy and go make your country great, but, this is not your country. Leave. Now.

Mrs. Right

I am a DACA recipient, graduated from a prominent university without any financial aid. I paid for school with the help of my family and the many hours of my hard work. I supervised 30 to 45 employees and believe me I think I know what an avg. citizen is by now. For the most part they are high school drop outs still working to get a GED. A third of them are over the age of 35 but most are in their early 20's. Nonetheless, I encourage them to get the GED as soon as possible. But despite being part of a state funded program that even pays for them to go to school they do not obtain the GED. Talk about double the cost of an avg. citizen. Wish I could have cashed in on all those state funded education opportunities... Unfortunately, my status did not permit. It's probably because I'm one of the many ABOVE avg. citizen's that overruns the schools and graduates with honors. Yet we are considered criminals by ignorant individuals with too much time on their hands. That being said, we will NOT leave but continue to make a name for our selves!!!

Malinda

Grady: While you are likely a RS troll stirring up divisiveness, I will biblically respond so the world k,is you & your kind are NOT the norm.You are a hateful US citizen. Us compassionate citizens do not agree with your rhetoric. Children who come to the US due to the desperation of their parents deserve sanctuary & compassion and the opportunities that all of is enjoy. Given these opportunities they will pay back our compassion ten fold, similar to the author, by becoming outstanding contributing Americans. We need immigration reform which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons. We also need to eradicate white nationalism/neoNazism/alt-right groups & their abhorrent behavior.

Anonymous

Please read this article with the misleading title in the NYTimes today. https://nyti.ms/2sz2gUS Immigrants are what make the US great.

Apparently you have never researched this issue. These DACA students and most immigrants (documented and undocumented) give more to the country than they have received. YOUR ancestors, unless you are a Native American (who we stole this nation from, btw), came to this country as immigrants. If they were allowed, it was a matter of shifting policy. Immigration is ALWAYS a political issue. Next time you eat something, ponder who produced that food: not you.

As the almost 73 year old "child" of refugees from Nazi Germany who agonizedly attempted to get their families out and "failed", leading to the MURDER of their loved ones, I am ashamed of the citizens in this nation who have been brainwashed as you clearly have.

Anonymous

DAPA and DACA were both ruled unconstitutional. By the appeals court in La. and a federal judge in Texas. Supreme Court ended in a 4 to 4 decision leaving the illegal ruling in place

Justice

Trump should seize all the records of DACA and find every single illegal alien registered in it. Then deport them all back to Central America where it's up to them to scatter and go back to their country of origin.

Eli Samuel Goldman

I was going to post nonsense like Trump's idiotic supporters do as "Anonymous." But I'm not so cowardly as Trump's people. I'm not afraid to put my name to things. The fact is Trump's supporters have been posting *alternative* nonsense the entire election and after on his Camp's request. Just like his own wife lied claiming that Michelle Obama copied her speech when it clearly came out the opposite is true. And no. I'm by not means a Trump supporter. But I am someone who trys to show the world what the Trump camp has been doing the entire election. ....I was going to write the way they do, but I just can't stomach even pretending to be pro-Trump.The fact of the matter is Trump's own people post nonsense to seem like anti-trump nutcases, so they can then discredit their own posts. They do the same in conversations out here on the show. It's a form of Strawman argument. The non-alternative-fact is that all election and after Trump has been spreading rumor via a network of alt right idiots then complaining about rumors created by his own people in an effort to seem persecuted when in fact he persecuted others.

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