PSA: this information is based on my personal experience as a DACA recipient as well as facts that I have acquired on this topic. I will leave my email at the end of this post in case you would like to contact me with any questions.
There are countless stories of DACA students all around the US and each story is special and unique. Keep in mind that this is not to complain about my situation but to share some insight about what it means to have DACA. You found the title compelling, so why not keep reading?
I didn’t grow up talking to my parents much about immigration or our status in this country, I mean I never knew the extent of our situation until I was much older. I always knew there was something different with our family but I didn’t understand what that was. I became aware of my situation when I started seeing my sister worry about how she was going to pay for college and whether she was going to be able to go or not. She graduated high school 1 year before DACA had become an option so her experience is completely different from mine. Once DACA came to be, I remember rushing to a lawyer with my mom to fill out the appropriate paperwork. That became the norm every two years. Renewing the status so that we would be able to work and go to school. Here we are now: 8 years, and 4 renewals later.
I will include a list below of the 5 things you might not know about DACA.
- Having DACA does not mean you automatically get any kind of student aid. I am not eligible for any kind of federal aid to pay for my college/university courses. I relied solely on private scholarships to graduate. I am thankful to the Miami Dade Honors College for paying for my first two years of college and for The Dream.US Scholarship for paying for my remaining two years at Florida International University. I did not have any support from faculty or staff in high school during my process of looking for scholarships as a DACA student. Senior year in high school was scary as I wasn’t eligible for scholarships because of my status , and my CAP advisor just said “I can’t help you.” That was extremely disappointing and disheartening. There definitely needs to be more community support for DACA students so that they know that there are opportunities for them to finish school and get the careers they have always wanted.
- I dealt with embarrassment in saying “I am a DACA student.” I spent most of high school hiding my immigration status. Everyone would say it was wrong, that those “dreamers” should just go back to their countries, so I stayed quiet for a while. I did not mention it to my friends because I was scared they were going to judge my situation. When it was time to apply for colleges, everyone wanted to go out of state and apply for amazing scholarships. That was when I had to be honest with myself that it might not be an option for me simply because I knew I would never eligible. I finally told a close friend of mine my senior year of high school and she was open and loving. I was finally able to share that part of myself with someone, and not let it bring me down or make me feel less than anyone else.
- The overwhelming fear that is always there. No one can really understand the fear that comes with having DACA unless they have it. Thankfully we are able to work and drive and help our families. But, we also have to make sure that we maintain a clean record so that there is absolutely nothing anyone can say to take DACA away from us. Even the smallest traffic violation can mean that you no longer have DACA, that you might face deportation, or that you might risk the safety of your family.
- It is not a pathway to citizenship. At all. There is absolutely no way for you to get any kind of residency or permanent status with DACA. You have to renew your DACA status every two years, which gives you a permit to work and a drivers license. You don’t have permanent residency. This is a rather large misconception. The current fee for renewal is $495. That doesn’t include any lawyer fees that will increase that total. You do that every two years. You submit your application by mail with the money order, and hope that everything was perfectly done so that your application isn’t rejected.
- Yes, we pay taxes. I have heard people tell me that DACA recipients do not have to pay taxes. As a DACA recipient, I work so of course I have to pay taxes. I have a social security number so I pay taxes, just like anyone else in the United States. There are countless of undocumented immigrants that pay taxes as well. Refer to this article for further explanation.
During my time in the Honors College, I met people that embraced the part of me that I hid for many years because I was afraid. Even though I was a DACA student, they supported me and valued me as a person. They fought alongside me through injustices and helped me find my voice. I will be forever grateful for that. Because of that, I no longer am afraid to tell people my story. To educate people on an aspect of not just my life, but thousands of children, young adults and adults all around the country. This is not just my story but theirs too.
There have been struggles as a DACA recipient. But there have been victories as well. I have found my voice. Because of my work in activism in this area, I have become even more passionate about social justice, not just related to immigration but on many other topics.
Right now, the fate of DACA stands in the Supreme Court. If you would like to read more about what is happening in the government now, check out this link.
If you would like to hear more about my personal “American Dream” story, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*I will be posting once a week immigration updates, informational blogs, and personal stories on this space. You will be hearing from me soon!