Choosing my own destiny

By Juan Carlos Ramos

At the age of 15, I chose my own destiny and decided to come to the United States from El Salvador to join my parents who had been living in North Carolina for many years.

My parents chose to leave their children in El Salvador several years ago because they could not find stable jobs to sustain the family. Although they regularly sent financial help, the money was not enough. At the age of ten, all I wanted was to be next to my parents and be able to hug them every night.

So my older brother and I decided migrate to the U.S. from El Salvador. As we were entering the country, we were arrested by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in Hidalgo, Texas and placed in a hideous detention facility, which everyone called “Hielera” or “Ice Box,” for two days.

But even the hielera was not enough to keep me from reuniting with my parents. After more than a month, I was finally able to hug my parents. I remember when I arrived to my new home. My dad was there to greet me and we just held each other crying. My mom arrived 10 minutes later and her embrace was the strongest feeling of love and caring I’ve ever felt. We were finally reunited.

Soon after, I was enrolled in high school and I tried to adjust to my life in North Carolina. However, this was short lived as the government opened a case for my deportation. It was then that I met other undocumented youth in North Carolina and we decided to publicly fight my deportation. The group of undocumented youth I met not only provided the safe space for me to come out as undocumented, but also as a member of the LGBTQ community. Collectively, we were able to stop my deportation and ever since then, I have been involved in the fight for justice for my entire community.

I continued to stay involved and in 2014, I attended the United We Dream Congress in Phoenix, Arizona. In Phoenix, my community decided to fight for relief for all 11 million undocumented immigrants through the #WeCantWait campaign. I left Arizona with a feeling of hope and power: hope that my family could live free from fear and the power that we could move the President of the United States to take action.

The next couple of months of the #WeCantWait campaign proved to be pivotal for the immigrant justice movement. We demanded relief for all undocumented immigrants and engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience outside of the White House to make our voices heard.

As I heard the President announce the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) on November 2014, I could literally feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I could finally qualify for DACA and get a work permit that would allow me to start planning my future. I was going to be able to return to school, become an architect, and support my parents.

However, the lawsuit that has placed a stop to the new immigration programs have led me through a roller coaster of emotions. Oscillating between anger for the politicians that continue to play politics with the lives of humans and frustration for having to wait on this bureaucratic legal process.

Even as I wait for the Supreme Court to finally make a decision on the DAPA and DACA expansion lawsuit, I know my community will continue to fight. I am committed to my parents, the warriors who gave me life and everything else I have. I want them to fulfill their dreams and not constantly fear deportation. They deserve and I deserve to live freely and without fear simply due to our immigration status.

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