The DREAMer’s State of Resilience

I do not cry often. There are tears that occasionally fall from my eyes when I am angry or when I receive joyful news, but I would not consider those as instances of crying. This is not to say that I lack emotional capacity — rather, there are certain obstacles that require of us a special type of resilience, one that leaves no room for tears. For me, and for eleven million other people in the U.S., it is the obstacle of being undocumented that drives such resilience.

Though I am a DREAMer with DACA status, I am undocumented in the sense that no straightforward path to citizenship exists for those like me — children who immigrated to the United States in their early years of life, some with their parents (and others without), either by arriving with a visitor visa and overstaying, or by jumping over the fence and crossing the desert. Children who have grown up embracing a culture that is not their own while simultaneously celebrating the one from which they come. Children who grow up to graduate from high schools across the country every year, uncertain about the path that lies ahead as they reach adulthood.

Make no mistake, I am very grateful for DACA — with President Obama’s 2012 executive order, I have a valid social security number as well as an employment authorization card. I do not have to work under the table to make a living. DACA even provided the opportunity to obtain a state ID so that I can travel by air — I would not be able to get to school otherwise. Additionally, there has been progress in providing more financial opportunities for DREAMers to obtain higher education and do just what they came to do — accomplish their American Dreams and contribute to American society. I can personally attest to such systemic progress — I attend a highly selective university on a generous scholarship, the pinnacle of higher education in the United States. I have within my grasp a world that my mother fought hard to give me and that I also worked hard to obtain.

Yet, the obstacles are still there — many of them. The existence of the DREAMer is one of constant uncertainty — no option to return to our home countries and fully identify as citizens without self-deporting from the lives we’ve created here, but also not legal enough to be American in the eyes of U.S. law. It is difficult to describe such an identity crisis in words. Political rhetoric has been promising a comprehensive immigration reform (read: a path to citizenship) for years — I am on the brink of adulthood and such a reform has yet to happen. Though those of us who have DACA can legally work, there remain many reputable job positions we cannot obtain because we are not legal U.S. residents or citizens. Additionally, it costs $465 to renew DACA status every two years — a perpetual financial burden for many, with no promise of expanding the program.

If this isn’t exemplary of how broken the American immigration system is, then I am not sure what else I can say to convey to others how desperately this country needs change. I have dreams — graduate college, attend professional school, build my career from the foundation of interests I am passionate about, and even purchase that nice home my mother always wanted but could never afford with her minimum-wage jobs. But I need an actual path. DREAMers need a path. The eleven million undocumented people in this country need a path.

Adversity builds resilience, and resilience is what holds back my tears. Resilience has molded me into the person I am today. But resilience that endures such an obstacle should not be a substitute for proper legal recognition of our existence and contributions to the United States of America.

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