HELLO AMERICA, I AM A DACA RECIPIENT

Written by: Kaira Batiz

In 2012, I heard the news of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and I was disappointed. I looked down at the floor and I thought, here we go again. There was no path for citizenship for someone like me, a 16 year old undocumented child. My mother brought me to the United States from Honduras when I was one and a half; she crossed the border with her infinite search for security and for a better opportunity for us. If I applied for DACA and received approval, I would get a working authorization card and if I wanted, I could apply for my drivers license. The cost of having to renew my DACA card every two years burdened my shoulders. It was position forward like a child staring at the wall while drooling. If I wanted to go along with this I would have to fill up an application with my personal information, collect documents like my passport and birth certificate, provide evidence that I am in school, and go to the immigration office to get my fingerprints taken. Once I received my DACA card I would have to apply for a social security card.

I looked up at my mother after thinking this through, I looked at the pictures on the living room walls thinking, either way, DACA wasn’t going to make the college application process easier for me. I would still have to apply to college without receiving any financial aid because I was not legal in this country, even though I was a low income student. I moved my head side to side refusing to believe this was my reality, but it was.

For a while I refused to apply for DACA until Sheryl insisted I apply. Sheryl was an immigration lawyer I met at an undocumented mic night in a Harlem book store. It was the summer before my sophomore year and my friend insisted for me to go. 

“You’re going to perform something right?” She exclaimed.

I looked at her and said, “I don't know? Should I?” 

“Yes girl!”

“Okay, I think I’ll freestyle.” 

When me and my friend Dominique arrived the lights were dim. I walked in to a girl with long hair dancing. Her body moved gracefully into the air. One minute the heels of her feet were grounded to the floor and the next her right leg rose as if it stood alone and her arms stretched up towards the ceiling reaching for life. It was beautiful. I was in a space of undocumented youth! Dreamers! And, I felt safe. I felt like I was at home. DACA didn’t only give undocumented youth a working authorization card, it also protected them from deportation. This meant students like me could come out of the closet as undocumented and share our stories in spaces like this. I got on that stage and I soared. My freestyle poetry climbed to those words I was aching to express. I spoke about my mother having depression. I spoke of hope. I spoke of love. As soon as I got off-stage that magic disappeared and my thoughts became consumed with fear and doubt. Soon after Sheryl walked up to me and introduced herself. 

Months passed since that event and my friendship with Sheryl grew stronger.  My mother was unemployed and I needed to find work for the summer. Years after being in the United States my mother was diagnosed with depression. She had a hard time transitioning from the world she grew up in and what became her current situation; my mother was now living in a world where a competitive mindset was necessary to survive and the family values she grew up with became a distant memory between relatives who had transitioned to this world too. Her world became miniscule. Sheryl helped me with my DACA application process.

Although I resented the immigration system of America I was ecstatic when I received my DACA card. I held it in my palms like it could fall at any minute and break in half. With that card I would get my first job at Harlem Fairway Market the following summer, and I would walk by the other employees like I owned the place, literally. I loved it because it meant that I was safe and being safe is something you do not take for granted when you are undocumented. 

I remember smiling in my little corner in the vitamins section underneath the stairs of the supermarket where I made the peanut butter, priced it, and placed it on the shelf and thought, “Hello America, I am a DACA recipient.”

Now it feels like a memory, ready to crumble at any minute. There are whispers of the program being terminated. Anti immigrant politicians who have not experienced the poverty and dangers that drive people out of their country to a more secure place are pushing the Trump administration to rescind DACA.

The burden of being undocumented hasn’t changed. Every time a politician fights against Dreamers like me; every single time I hear words like deportation or alien my whole body freezes, each word that comes out of their mouth is a whip hitting my skin.  

Five years ago I insisted that DACA wasn’t enough. Over the years I have learned it was a step forward and now it feels like America is taking hundreds of steps back. 

If you support DACA and DREAMers you can help by signing this Petition.