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Today marks the 1-year anniversary of DACA, a program that has help hundreds of thousands of DREAMers. Our policy coordinator Adrian, a DREAMer, recaps what the last 365 days have meant for him:
It was the summer before my senior year at Cornell University. I quickly began to feel the same wave of fear returning in my life, fear that had consumed my freedom, energy, and happiness since the age of six. Depression and anxiety sneaked up on me as talks with my mother only reminded me that my opportunities in the United States were slowly coming to a screeching halt. Despite my attempts to enjoy summer with my siblings in the Sun City of El Paso, TX, I began to distance myself from loved ones as the thought of having to return to Mexico—a place I hadn’t seen in 16 years—after graduation loomed in my head. On June 14, 2012, I fell asleep with the same empty and scarred heart that continued to be plagued with pain and fear.
The following morning, I awoke startled by loud vibrations coming from my phone. I slowly opened my eyes, reached for my phone, and saw several messages from my close friend Kim. I panicked when I read that she was in tears, but as I continued reading, I realized her tears were neither of pain nor of sadness; they were tears of happiness for the relief that I and other DREAMers throughout the nation would receive through temporary relief from deportation and a work permit.
I sat in my bed for what seemed like hours, waiting for President Obama to speak in the Rose Garden of the White House. His speech started and finished, and I continued sitting on my bed, emotionless and silent as I processed the implications that it would have on my life. My mother immediately came into my room as soon as she got home, tears in her eyes and her voice shaking from happiness. I smiled and hugged my mother while thanking her for risking her life in order to give me a better life in the United States. Even though she would not qualify for this opportunity, she felt immense happiness and relief knowing that her sacrifice of leaving her family and career as a teacher in Mexico was beginning to manifest itself into opportunity for her children.
I submitted my application the very first day the process began. Exactly one year ago from today. It was an exciting day full of hope and promise. I gave my mother and father my big smile and reassured them our lives would be different from now on.
DACA has offered me countless of opportunities that have slowly eased the depression and anxiety that I felt the summer before my final year at Cornell. I’ve since graduated magna cum laude and started my very first job at FWD.us. Beyond the ability to find legal employment and to acquire a 9-digit number, DACA has most importantly allowed me the opportunity to rediscover myself and find courage in my voice. I am no longer ashamed of being undocumented; instead, I am using my newly discovered voice and renewed drive to fight for comprehensive immigration reform that can bring about a permanent solution that enables me, my family and my community to continue forward realizing the American Dream.
I will always remember August 15, 2012 as the day that I began to temporarily alleviate my scars and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I could finally begin integrating myself in the only country I’ve known. However, this effort isn’t just about me. There are hundreds of thousands of young people like myself who have not yet applied for DACA, and it’s my hope that they will soon. Just yesterday, United We Dream helped launch a new iPhone app called “Pocket DACA” to help other young DREAMers learn about the process of applying for DACA. As a community and as a country, we have to support one another and fight for each other’s DREAMs. The time for immigration reform is NOW.