Not that it wasn’t an important step — and for me, it was personal. In 2010, along with three friends, I walked from Miami to Washington, D.C., to ask President Barack Obama to stop deporting “dreamers”: people who, like me, had been brought to this country as children and were not able to become citizens, or even legal residents. I helped create the immigrant youth organization United We Dream. I became the group’s lead negotiator and political director, and when Obama established DACA in June 2012, we counted it as a huge victory. I was thrilled to see the long lines — they seemed to stretch for miles — in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Miami — lines of people waiting to get legal help with filling out the forms that would change their lives.
Through DACA, I was able to get a driver’s license and buy my first home. With special Department of Homeland Security permission, I was able to travel to Ecuador to visit my dying grandmother, whom I hadn’t seen since I left that country at age 8.
But DACA was basically a repeated cycle of deferred deportations. We diligently renewed our status again and again, paying the hefty $495 fee each time. We were living our lives in two-year increments, at the mercy of a changeable government, riding an anxiety-filled roller coaster. Though I am now a legal permanent resident, I still feel I have a responsibility to the almost 700,000 individuals who have only DACA to depend on.
Poll after poll shows that other Americans feel the same and want our government to stand up for dreamers’ futures in this country. Yet after the court’s decision was announced, I asked a group of fellow dreamers how they felt, and one said, “I am happy, but unsure of what can and will happen next.” So are we all.
DACA lives to see another day. Importantly, we all should work to ensure that many younger dreamers who had been unable to apply for the program to receive DACA for the first time are able to apply now. This is crucial because Trump, thwarted by the Supreme Court, may well try to end the program some other way.
But the most important step is still in the future — providing a path to permanent citizenship. I want to remind all those who currently have DACA, our allies — and especially those who, unlike me, have the power to vote — to push so that dreamers can finally be let off the roller coaster and continue to live safely in this, our country, and to keep being productive members of our communities.
DACA was a stop-gap measure, and I hope that dreamers with and without DACA are all finally allowed to become on paper what we already feel we are in our hearts, United States citizens.
For now, I think I will sleep well.