Cristian Bardales is a student at George Mason University.
Guatemala, land of eternal spring — this is the country I left at age 6, now a foreign nation not my own. I am 21. I have spent most my life here, in the great United States of America, once a foreign nation not my own.
I had no say in coming, the choice was made for me. It was a decision made by my two loving and supportive parents, who wanted nothing more than to give me the life they never had. A life of opportunity. A life where hard work and determination could make even my wildest of dreams possible.
My parents left their homeland, my homeland, with nothing but the clothes they carried, determined to prosper in this land of liberty. And now this is my home. Virginia is my state. Sterling Park my neighborhood. George Mason my university. The United States, the land that I love.
I am a “dreamer.” I am living, walking, talking, prosperous proof that my parents’ sacrifices and hard work are paying off. I am Generation 1.5, both a child of immigrants and an immigrant myself.
By the grace of the living God I believe in, my parents’ journey was made possible. We arrived here safe and sound, and then my parents got right to it, working diligently at jobs the more privileged in this country did not want.
I was enrolled in first grade without knowing a lick of English. Now I am studying to become an engineer, and I thank the Obama administration, too, which let a ray of hope shine into the lives of 1.5 dreamers like me.
Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, we children of immigrants could obtain work permits and a Social Security number. Without DACA, I would have been consigned to the shadows, like so many before me, limited in what opportunities I could pursue. But now I can thrive just as the citizens of this country can thrive, though I am still not one of them. I can obtain a license to legally drive a car. I can be legally employed. I could also apply to colleges and get quoted in-state tuition, making a once near-impossible goal a bit more attainable.
I am thankful, but I cannot rest easy. I can’t get financial aid for school, reserved only for citizens, and I can’t leave the United States because I won’t be allowed back in. This makes one of my dreams — to travel the world, to see family in Guatemala — not feasible as of now. And I can’t escape the reality that some are pushing the Trump administration to end what the Obama administration started.
But I remain thankful, because now I can work legally, and I can use this income to pay my way through college, out of pocket, even if it takes me longer to graduate. I am thankful that I can pay taxes, even if the money goes into a system that for now won’t make me one of its own. I am thankful that the Trump administration has allowed the DACA program to continue, and even to grow.
I am thankful, yes. I am the son of two honest and hard-working immigrant parents from Guatemala. I am a dreamer 1.5. But I am also a whole lot more than that.