DACA Is Not Enough: A Reflection on the Anniversary of DACA from a DACA Recipient

My name is Abril Martinez Rodriguez and I am an incoming senior at the University of Washington pursuing Social Welfare.

I applied for DACA October 2016, just months before Trump came into office so changes were made very quickly after I became DACAmented when his administration attempted to terminate the program. Being a DACA recipient has pushed me to advocate and involve myself in the community because I have experienced the hardships first-hand.

I have felt hopelessness and continued marginalization knowing that I cannot classify myself as Mexican-American because even though I have that sense of belonging to American society, I am not perceived as “American” by others. While I have had many doors open, I have also had missed opportunities to live the life I had envisioned for myself like studying out of state, studying abroad/traveling outside of the U.S. and reconnecting with relatives in the country I was born in. There have been many occasions where DACA was under the threat of being terminated which left me wondering whether temporary status is enough.

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I consider myself fortunate to reside in Washington state because whether I have DACA or not, I am able to receive financial aid while attending an in-state university and I can also obtain a driver’s license as an undocumented individual. One of the biggest barriers we face is having employment authorization because employers are required to refuse to hire or terminate an undocumented worker once they learn of an employee’s lack of work authorization. But because of DACA, I can be employed and have economic opportunities. In the past two years I completed an internship at a highly respected organization and received an employment offer within my field of interest. However, I could lose that employment at any time if my work authorization expires and I am unable to renew.

While in college, I’m pursuing research on the mental health impacts that the Trump administration had on the undocumented community, a seriously under-studied area. I particularly want to study the lives of those living in states that restrict undocumented individuals from obtaining drivers license, in state tuition and have higher deportation rates.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the inception of DACA, the next step for our immigrant communities is a pathway toward citizenship. It is important that we acknowledge all DREAMers that put a human face to undocumented stories and demanded inclusion for all of us by shifting immigration debates, lobbying relentlessly for our cause, and shaming former President Obama into acting on our behalf. I admire all those that risked incarceration for DACA to be implemented by speaking out, protesting, and engaging in direct action especially because in the early 2000s when a majority of this was happening, I was far too young to understand the repercussions of being undocumented. It is now time for our communities to receive the pathway toward citizenship that we originally asked for under the DREAM Act.

The thoroughness of the DACA application places the narrative that recipients are hardworking, have promising futures, and work tirelessly to build a life with the narrow opportunities we have been offered despite the uncertainty of our temporary status. This mold set by the DACA policy excludes all those that are not in the military, have access to education, do not meet the age requirement, or have a criminal record. It can be incredibly damaging to know that the same program that protects some of us, excludes so many others by marking them as undeserving. We must continue to fight for a comprehensive, fair, and humane immigration policy for all 11 million undocumented immigrants that seek status, some for decades.

Organize with me and OneAmerica to create a world where immigrants can thrive.