I Have DACA, but That Didn’t Stop Trump’s Immigration Agents From Arresting Me

Immigration agents arrested Francisco Rodriguez even though he has lived in Portland since age five and has DACA status. (Photo: Natalie Behring/ACLU)

My earliest memory is of the day I first came to Portland. I was five years old, and my family had just arrived from Michoacan, Mexico. The city seemed enormous — it seemed like every time you turned the corner, it kept growing. It feels like my life started on that day, the day I came to Portland.

Today, after spending my entire life here, the city feels small, because I know every part of it. I love hiking around the city, eating Voodoo Doughnuts, and watching the Blazers and the Timbers. This place — Portland — is who I am.

Growing up, I was just like everyone else. I started school at Glenfair Elementary, and I went all the way through to Reynolds High School with the same kids I knew from kindergarten. We learned to read together. We bought Slurpees at the 7-11 together. We played disc golf in the park together.

No one ever questioned my immigration status, so it took me years to realize that I had no legal status. My younger brother and sister, who are now 13 and 19, were born in the United States, and they’re U.S. citizens. But as high school graduation got closer and closer, I started to wonder about my future: What happens next? How will I go about my life? Can I go to college? Can I look for a job?

Suddenly, I felt different, and I was scared.

I started to think it would be better if I stayed out of the spotlight. I thought twice about attending soccer games or neighborhood events — immigration agents could be there. For the most part, I didn’t tell my friends about my status — I was afraid their image of me would change somehow.

Then almost three years ago, after President Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, I applied for it. DACA status would mean that I could attend school and work. I wouldn’t need to be afraid. When I got DACA, I was full of excitement at getting a chance. I was a dreamer.

Since then, I’ve taken classes at Mt. Hood Community College. I started volunteering at Glenfair Elementary, the same school I attended. I got a job as a teachers’ assistant where I work one-on-one with kids who need help, and I also work in the afterschool program. I volunteered at the church my family had been attending for decades.

Then last December, I was arrested for driving under the influence. I made several wrong decisions that night. But I have made several right decisions since then. I am in treatment. I signed up for a diversion program, and I showed up for all my court dates. I was on my way to completing all the requirements to get this DUI expunged from my records. I started working a third job organizing a food pantry for low-income families.

Around 7:30 on Sunday morning March 26, when my whole family was sleeping, we were woken up by loud banging at the door. Half-asleep, at first I thought it was the neighbor kids asking for my little brother to come out and play. But the banging was too loud and urgent. I got up, and my sister answered the door. Officers asked for me. My sister closed the door and came upstairs.

I was getting dressed to go see what they wanted when she said, “I think they’re immigration.”

I stopped cold and called Father Roberto Maldonado, the priest of our Episcopal church, who tried to calm me down. All the way inside my house, I could hear the agents yelling my name outside. I was scared.

To my fellow dreamers: Even though things feel scary, I still say, don’t be afraid.

I quickly hung up and went downstairs to talk to them. Before I opened the door, I turned around and looked at my whole family. They looked so afraid. I told them to stay calm and let me handle it and figure it out. Then I went outside.

The next thing I knew, I was in handcuffs and inside their car. I thought, Where are we going? What’s happening? The ICE agents told me I would lose DACA and took me first to a facility in Portland, and then all the way to Tacoma, Washington.

The funny thing is, even as this was happening, I still couldn’t imagine being deported. Life in Mexico feels totally foreign to me — I’m from Portland.

I didn’t know it at the time, but while I was in the detention center, people came out from every part of my life to fight for my release. They called anyone who would listen, and my story started to spread quickly.

You don’t have to have grown up here in Portland like I did to know that my city knows how to fight back against injustice. People demanding my release flooded the telephone lines at the ICE facility where I was being held. A rally was organized. Thousands of people shared information on social media.

Incredibly, a day and half after ICE detained me, I was released on bond.

When I think about everyone who fought for me, I am so moved and totally overwhelmed. But I realize it’s about more than just me. The people who rallied or called on my behalf made it clear that they reject these policies that are tearing families apart. They know that no one who grew up here should be ripped away from their home.

Yesterday, ICE revealed that I was swept up in a three-day enforcement action that covered the entire Pacific Northwest. Eighty-three other people were caught in this dragnet, including at least three other DACA recipients.

I still face deportation proceedings. The idea is still unimaginable to me because Portland is my home. And after seeing so many Oregonians fight for me, I know I’m right where I belong.

To my fellow dreamers: Even though things feel scary, I still say, don’t be afraid. We cannot be forced back into the shadows. Know your rights with ICE. Spread the word in your community. That’s what I will be doing in Portland.

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Patricia Burns

It just tears at me as an American citizen that we could be this cruel to fellow human beings. These immigrants have been part of our fabric and culture forever. WE ARE IMMIGRANTS. NOBODY INVITED US HERE!

Anonymous

He came to this country in violation of the law. He was granted DACA status, which allowed him to stay under the condition he does not violate the law. HE BROKE THE LAW by driving under the influence!

Anonymous

To the anonymous reply - how is it a 5-year-old's fault that his parents brought him here illegally? Why should he be punished? It's just cruel.

Anonymous

You're right. Let's punish the parents who were old enough mature enough smart enough to come user here. They need to be deported.

Anonymous

" how is it a 5-year-old's fault that his parents brought him here illegally? Why should he be punished? It's just cruel." My parents robbed an armored car when I was 5. I should be able to keep 3 million dollars of stolen money. It wasn't my fault !

Earthshoes

He's not asking to get something for nothing (ill gotten gains from parents stealing). He's working, contributing to society, and making a way for himself.

Did he break the law? Yes he did. But he's set about making restitution, just like any other adult does when they do something wrong.

ICE is picking the low hanging fruit, the compliant immigrants. Because they're easy to find, non-violent, and plentiful (not the few criminals who are in hiding and are masters at keeping a low profile when it matters). This is how they're going to create the numbers that Trump wants to boast about.

Anonymous

God bless you. You are humane, unlike some people. I just wondered how people can be so inhuman

USAPrimo

I think the point the first reply is don't commit the crime while youbare still a visitor to the United States. It was not his parents fault he was drunk while driving. It is his own.

Give him a break it was his firat time.... Or was it just the first time he was caught?

And yes, it was/is very inhumane of him to have been drunk while driving. If he took away someone elses dream that night would you still defend his rights to legalization?

USAPrimo

Sorry Patricia, in the days when my forefathers arrived there were no immigration laws in this territory. As it became a nations laws were eventually enacted. Do you think the US is the only country with immigrants and immigration laws?

I am sorry you are not content being an US American where you need to be a hyphenated person.

Really Patricia?

Really Patricia? Come on, use some common sense here. If we are all immigrants then where were you born? When did you come to the states? Did you also come here illegally? Also, I guarantee if this kid just so happened to hurt one of your family members, possible kill, then you would be up in arms to have this kid deported. Ya, it's unfortunate about the entire situation, but he knew the risk, he took it, and it bit him in the arse.

The title of the article is 100% misleading. Typical west coast media stirring in their favor so the less than average (everyone on the west coast and the south) American will be up in arms defending this kid for being "unfairly" taken by the ICE.

The title of the article should be "I have a DACA, but then I broke the law and understand the consequences of my actions. Then Obama's agents (yes the exact same thing would have happened even if Obama was president at the time) legally took me and booked me" Honestly there shouldn't even be an article for this story, nothing about this story was unlawful in any way, except for his DUI obviously.

It just baffles me that people can be so naive and narrow-minded and not actually see the facts here. The kid had a DACA, legally, then he broke the contract with his DACA by illegally drinking and driving. From his actions, this LEGALLY terminates his contract and his eligibility to stay in the states. Therefore ICE agents are LEGALLY allowed to detain him, and from the sound of it, they detained him in the most lawful way. No racist comments or derogatory remarks, they were just doing their job.

The left likes to forget the Obama had detained and deported more illegal immigrants than any other president to this date. If Obama was still the president at the time of this incident, NOTHING WOULD HAVE CHANGED. He still would have been detained for essentially breaking his contract.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable person, yes I lean right, but also accept left views. But for some reason the left right now can't accept the fact the there are laws for a reason, just because you don't agree with them doesn't mean they don't apply to you.

Can we as a nation just use some common sense for once? Is it really that hard? I don't understand why the dumd*** rednecks in the south and the over-sensitive crybabies in the west just don't use or have any common sense. Honestly, I give humanity too much credit

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