“I’m no longer a prisoner of my own ambitions…” 30-year old Fernando Espiritu shares his journey of before and after receiving DACA
How old were you when you were brought to the United States?
I was 7 years old.
How has being undocumented affected your childhood and teenage years?
I didn’t know about my immigration status until I wanted to apply for my Driver’s License. I remember feeling isolated, angry, and overall just disempowered. It also caused a lot of dissonance between my parents and me. Over time, with the support of other DREAMers and the social activist community in Los Angeles, I was able to recognize my power as someone who could fight back through political organizing. Now, because of my experiences as an unDACAmented person and with the support of loved ones, I’m inspired to continue to advocate for people in marginalized communities.
When DACA was first announced in 2012, what was your initial reaction?
I was skeptical. I thought it coincided with President Obama’s second election and was a political ploy. I questioned President Obama’s intention and hesitated to enlist in DACA until after the elections were over.
When did you apply for DACA?
May 2013, I was approved that August.
What role, if any, has DACA played in helping you achieved your personal, professional and academic goals?
DACA has enabled me to do several things. First, not having to worry about how I’m going to make a living. I have a legitimate job that has insurance, healthcare, dental care, vision, and a retirement plan. I’ve been able to obtain a Driver’s License, travel to New York and Boston, and over all have a sense of relief that I am relatively safe to pursue the idea of the American Dream.
What will the availability of DAPA, or other possible administrative reforms, mean for you and your family?
Personally, DAPA serves as hope that the immigration movement is gaining traction towards comprehensive reform.
What has been the most rewarding and challenging aspect of this experience of applying for and receiving DACA?
The most rewarding aspect of DACA is having new doors open for me. I’m no longer a prisoner of my own ambitions. The most challenging aspect of DACA was the wait and knowing that someone in the Federal Government had the power to approve or deny my application. It seems “un-American” that one person can have so much authority. I also feel DACA needs to evolve into a program that has a pathway towards citizenship. People are still unable to access Social Security or Medicaid which they pay into. People are still being oppressed by this country’s inhuman immigration laws and there is more work ahead to ensure millions receive relief. Watching the detractors talk negatively about DACA has been challenging as well.
What would you say to those who may be afraid to apply for expanded DACA this February or DAPA in May?
Register! It saddens me that so many in the API community have not come out the shadows, and I think speaks more to the shame they feel about their status than any fear. Having a huge turnout amongst the API community shows that immigration spans ethnicities and is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement. The narrative of who would benefit from immigration reform would begin to shift and a broader conversation would being to take place.