22-year old Yves Gomes highlights the need for more relief for immigrants, beyond DACA and DAPA
How old were you when you were brought to the United States?
I came to the United States in 1994, in the arms of my mother, when I was one-and-a-half years old.
How has being undocumented affected your childhood and teenage years?
For the first twelve years of my life, I lived as any of my US citizen/ legal peers as my family had an ongoing asylum case. Like many American children, I feel like I took my opportunities and my family for granted.
After 2006, following the denial of our appeal for asylum, my family was “undocumented” for the first time. In 2009, the US government deported both of my parents, leaving my 12 year old US citizen brother and me without a home. Fortunately, my relatives took us in. This latter 1/3 of my life has been a challenge- grappling with my own deportation, learning how to be a make-shift parent figure for my younger brother, and trying to proceed with my higher education and planning my career goals within the confines of being undocumented.
When DACA was first announced in 2012, what was your initial reaction?
I was happy for my friends that were able to qualify. I was extremely disheartened for my friends who were not able to qualify due to some of the arbitrary requirements of the program. It was bittersweet, as are most victories for the undocumented immigrant community. The one thing I have pride in knowing is that the only reason DACA became a reality is because of the courageous and defiant undocumented youth who demanded the relief despite tremendous pushback from the administration.
When did you apply for DACA?
DHS/ ICE has always had the power to grant prosecutorial discretion; I was granted it in 2010. I renewed my deferred action through DACA in August 2012 and received my work permit after 8 months.
What role, if any, has DACA played in helping you achieved your personal, professional and academic goals?
DACA enabled me to keep living in the United States and continue my education through some protection against deportation. It enables me to work legally as a pharmacy technician in my desired field of health care. Academically, DACA makes it so I am not excluded from pursuing higher education; through DACA I have a better chance of reaching my career goal of pharmacist.
What will the availability of DAPA, or other possible administrative reforms, mean for you and your family?
DAPA excludes relief for families like mine who have been separated through deportation. DAPA also excludes the majority of the undocumented community. Most of the community that fought so hard to demand this relief is excluded from it, which breaks my heart. I am fearful for those that did not qualify, and think they will be subject to harsher enforcement. President Obama’s announcement on the replacement for secure communities with an alternative program just means the government will find more creative ways to label our undocumented community members as criminals.
What has been the most rewarding and challenging aspect of this experience of applying for and receiving DACA?
The most challenging part of applying for DACA has been the paperwork, as it is intimidating the first time around. Also what is challenging is receiving the work permit in the mail and knowing that so many of my friends, families and communities continue to be excluded from the very relief I am getting. The rewarding aspect knows I can work, go to school and take care of my family. DACA is analogous to being trapped in a desert, and drinking a cup of urine to survive.
What would you say to those who may be afraid to apply for expanded DACA this February or DAPA in May?
Please go to community organizations and legal advocacy organizations like AAJC for information and help. Do not trust random attorneys. Get informed, and apply; don’t wait for immigration reform. Immigration reform is just a code word for bolstering this nation’s Military-industrial and prison-industrial complexes.