Skip to main content.

With a Supreme Court ruling, young immigrants win more time to fight for their future

With a Supreme Court ruling, young immigrants win more time to fight for their future

Picture of Jacqueline García
Jacqueline Garcia interviews Raquel Bensimon, former board chair of the Dearden’s furniture chain. “Being undocumented made me r
Jacqueline Garcia, right, interviews Raquel Bensimon, former board chair of the Dearden’s furniture chain. “Being undocumented made me realize the importance of journalism,” Garcia writes.
(Photo by Aurelia Ventura)

As a former DACA recipient, I saw President Trump’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of hardworking undocumented young people. It turns out, his action was also a shove out the door. 

Some Dreamers gave up hope of ever obtaining legal status in the United States and self-deported. Others stopped renewing their DACA status out of fear that immigration agents would go after them and their families. On Facebook groups for Dreamers, many expressed anguish and a sense of defeat.

The Supreme Court ruling earlier this month, rejecting the administration’s attempt to kill the program, is cause for celebration. But the Court left open the possibility that the administration could ultimately prevail if it provides a “reasoned explanation” for dismantling DACA. The president quickly promised to do just that. It was an important reminder that DACA has never been a permanent solution. The victory in court simply gives the Dreamers more time to fight for one.

I gained permanent legal status in 2017, when Trump announced the dissolution of DACA. While I had a sense of safety for myself, I felt frustrated because I knew the importance of the program. Many of my biggest dreams were realized through DACA. How would the more than 750,000 DACA recipients make their dreams come true?

I remember watching President Obama announce the creation of DACA, in a Rose Garden speech on June 15, 2012. In almost every word he spoke, I felt he was talking about me. I pledge allegiance to the American flag. I attended middle school and high school in this country. I graduated from college, paying my tuition through private scholarships and donations because I didn’t qualify for government financial aid. I had a Bachelor’s degree I couldn’t use because I didn’t have a valid social security number.

Being undocumented made me realize the importance of journalism. I was able to tell the stories of those in need. Whatever the issue — education, health, the environment — the inequities and burdens fall heavily on minorities, and on undocumented people most of all.

I had come to this country from Puebla, Mexico, at age of 12, to reunite with my mother and three siblings. I didn’t know what an undocumented person was. I knew only that I wanted to be with my family. 

Obama said it clearly: I was American “in every single way but one: on paper.” He was ready to lift the shadow of deportation and offer undocumented young people some relief and hope.

His decision came just in time for me. I barely qualified for DACA; the age limit was 30, and I was 29. I have friends who were too old to qualify, but that didn’t make them any less American. 

I had been an activist for legalization and a path to citizenship for undocumented youth since graduating from high school. That's when I realized how difficult my future would be without legal status. I wasn’t afraid to talk about being undocumented to anyone who would listen and help us. In fact, being undocumented made me realize the importance of journalism. I was able to tell the stories of those in need. Whatever the issue — education, health, the environment — the inequities and burdens fall heavily on minorities, and on undocumented people most of all.

With DACA I was able to get a driver’s license and a valid social security number. I could work legally as a journalist and travel outside the country, though it required a special permit and re-entry was at the discretion of immigration agents.

I was able to build credit, buy a new car from a dealership and, along with my husband, buy a house in Los Angeles. 

I visited my hometown Teziutlan, Puebla, in 2016, for the first time in nearly 20 years. I hugged the siblings of my mother and father and visited my old home, made of cement and sheets. I took flowers to my father’s grave. He had died 10 years earlier, and I hadn’t been able to attend his funeral because, without legal status, I wouldn’t have been allowed back into the U.S.

Visiting my past helped me understand where I came from. It also affirmed that my home is here. I returned energized and excited to continue building my future.

It is well known that journalists must not be biased, but I feel nothing but gratitude for the opportunities I received from President Obama through DACA.

After obtaining my legal residency in 2017, I traveled to Tijuana to visit my older brother, who had been deported eight years earlier. He settled just across the border instead of going to our native state of Puebla because he wanted to stay close to what he knew as home. He would have qualified for DACA if he hadn't been forced by immigration agents to sign auto-deportation papers. Immigration officials call “voluntary deportation,” but it was no such thing in his case and many others.

I am thrilled that the Supreme Court decision has renewed hope for my “DACAmented" brothers and sisters. But our work is not over. Congress must create a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, including our parents. They are the real dreamers and doers. They came to a country they didn’t know, endured low-wage jobs and often, hostility, to secure a better life for themselves — and for us.

I am proud of my mother and the courage she had to bring me and my brothers here. I'm also proud be part of a generation that did not let our undocumented status stop us from fighting for what's right. We don’t know what will happen in the future, but for now we can celebrate. 

Comments

Picture of

Your journey continues to be inspiring Jacqueline. Those of us at LA Trade Tech are very proud of you.

Picture of

Every single word in this article is filled with inspiration, Jacqueline. It is evident that you want every DACA recipient to enjoy the benefits that were bestowed on you. Great going, Jacqueline. Do not let anything or anyone deter you from your path! It is inspiring to see you do so much for undocumented people.

Leave A Comment

Announcements

A global pandemic, a national reckoning with racism, botched school reopenings and leadership vacuums — it's not an easy moment to be starting out as a journalist. Join us as we hear from three youth journalists from around the country as they discuss the massive challenges confronting their generation. Sign-up here

Ready to take your journalism to a new level by honing your data analysis and visualization skills?  We're offering our highly acclaimed annual Data Fellowship through Zoom from Nov. 30-Dec. 4.

Do you have a great idea for a potentially impactful reporting project on a health challenge in California?  Our 2020 Impact Fund can provide financial support and six months of mentoring.

CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY

Follow Us

Facebook


Twitter

CHJ Icon
ReportingHealth