UnDACAmented, but #HereToStay


Aylin Tafoya, Contributor

I’ve recently found myself unapologetically reconnecting with and joyfully embracing my Mexican heritage. After 10 years of residing in the United States, English has become my preferred and most-used language, although Spanish was my first-learned language.

My attitude became that of a “gringa,” according to my mother, which in her eyes meant that I thought I could handle everything by myself and could do whatever I wanted. Even the food I preferred to eat was undoubtedly not Mexican, even when it attempted to be.

However, after the Electoral College voted Donald Trump as president, things in my life took a drastic turn. Somewhat rewinding the movie that is my life into what it used to look like almost five years ago, giving me a totally new perspective into who I am and who I want to be.

DACA, or Deferred Act for Childhood Arrivals, came into play for me during the second semester of my sophomore year at Northwest Early College High School. It was the first time I had heard of it, and I eventually got accepted into this wonderful immigration program.

Before that, my life was a mess and full of uncertainty. I did not know what the purpose was to further myself, or what to pour all of my energy into if there was an unclimbable wall waiting for me at the end of a very difficult road. I couldn’t figure out my purpose, and I made a couple of bad choices along the way. Nevertheless, my extremely supportive family stayed behind me, and slowly but surely, everything changed. DACA, an opportunity-filled future, warmly greeted me after a brief storm.

DACA seeks to guide undocumented immigrants like myself on a path toward residency and citizenship. Through this program, if the requirements are met, undocumented immigrants were granted a two-year permission to freely reside in this country. Also, based on financial need, we were allowed to work during our deportation-free stay. Most DACA recipients are students wanting a college education that can prepare them to contribute to society.

Because of DACA, I obtained my associate’s degree before I graduated from high school. I went on to seek my bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism at UTEP and got to pay for that education without taking out student loans and drowning in debt by working my way up from the bottom every summer for the Chihuahuas.

This policy was established by the Obama administration in June 2012, and because of it, I got to live out the American dream. However, it was rescinded by the Trump administration in September 2017, leaving Congress to deal with enacting new immigration laws for us once-again undocumented immigrants. This is where the rewinding comes into play.

Without DACA, we are taking all of this progress, all of this opportunity and throwing it away. We are watching our lives go in circles and down the drain. President Trump’s voice keeps echoing in my head, “they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” just as he said of us while announcing his candidacy last June. Since taking office, he has deported thousands of men, women and undeserving children. Most recently, a 10-year-old girl, Rosa Maria Hernandez, who has cerebral palsy, is at risk of deportation after being stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint and accompanied to the hospital by officers, who waited outside her room as she recovered from surgery. If the failure to implement a good immigration policy doesn’t stop with this innocent, defenseless girl, who’s to say I’m not next?

This, however, has not stopped me from speaking my mind or trying to help others speak theirs.

Becoming a journalist has given me a platform where I can speak my mind and speak the truth. It’s already proving hard being unDACAmented, meaning undocumented, and I will be without DACA in March 2018.

I’m limited to the internships I’m allowed to apply to, the jobs that will take me in for the next five months and the classes I’m so desperately trying to take so I can graduate next May. My family has already started the process of trying to ask for me to become a resident. However, it’s proving difficult with my 21st birthday nearing, which complicates things because of the fact that the residency process is elongated once one turns into a full adult at that age.

More so, if Congress does not come up with something soon, which there has been very little to no talk of happening, I could more easily be deported. Panic fills my household as each day passes and nothing is done to help facilitate my dream of continuing and improving the life I’ve been living in the United States.

Immigrants help build and strengthen this nation, but are unfairly villainized as invaders. Nearly all of the 800,000 DACA recipients have been the victims of this oppression. Recently, a United We Dream walk-out was staged at UTEP,  which made me feel like I’m not the only one with a progressive outlook to counteract the close-mindedness of some DACA-opposing individuals, and gave me hope about the tides turning in our favor.

In the meantime, I’ll surf the waves as best as I can, because we’re here to stay.