Monday of last week marked the 4th Anniversary of the date when the first applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were submitted on August 15, 2012. The DACA program, first announced by President Obama in June 2012, gives immigrant youth who were between the ages of 15 and 31 who came to the United States before June 15, 2007 temporary protection from deportation, access to a work permit, the ability to obtain a driver’s license, and other significant protections. During the four years since its implementation, DACA has been an astonishing success. As a result, millions of undocumented youths – many for the first time in their lives – were able to legally work, drive, and live lives similar to their peers; even if it was only for two years at a time. One of these youths is a former Brooklyn-Cayce High School soccer captain and Mexican national, Ivan Vasquez Jimenez. Now, in his spare time, Ivan has become a key part of SC Appleseed’s organizing team, as a Community Leader within his community, working alongside our Immigration Outreach Specialist, Alycia Guevara.
Recently, Alycia sat down with Ivan and asked him to share his DACA story in honor of the four-year anniversary of this life-changing program. This is his story.
“When I found out that I could receive DACA,” began Ivan, “I was beyond excited. I felt adrenaline flowing through my body. I had always wanted to attend college, get a driver’s license, and have a work permit.” Although he came to the United States of America at the age of five from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico*, these normal activities most of us take for granted, were always just beyond his reach. “As soon as I received DACA, I immediately tried to get my driver’s license and, over time, I was able to pass all of the requirements and the road test. I remember that day so clearly,” he beams, “because it meant the world to my parents, who love me so much, because they don’t have the same opportunities as I do now. Getting my driver’s license was just the first step. I realized with the work permit I could find a good job in an office or something like that,” he says. “I work now as a sales agent; therefore, the work permit was very beneficial to me.”
“I am taking as much advantage as possible of the opportunities that DACA has presented me with,” explains Ivan. “I will be attending college in the Spring of 2017 because I want to further my education. I want to make my parents realize that I have never, at any point, forgotten the real reason why I am here in the United States of America. I believe that there is no better way to show them how much I appreciate their love and support than by making the right decisions to better my life.”
The conversation then took a somber turn as he then reflected on the very real possibility of DACA being repealed by the next president of the United States. “If DACA was to be taken away for good, I would be devastated,” he sighs. “I think would feel a mixture of depression, frustration, and disappointment all on top of the immense stress that such a decision would cause me. I say this because there are so many people and so many students like me that want to continue to utilize their opportunity to drive legally, that want a stable job as well as a better future. Without DACA, I would feel hopeless and heartbroken because I would feel like I have let my parents and family members in Mexico down even though I have no control over what happens to DACA. DACA has changed my life completely. I now have the opportunity to do great things in return for my parents’ sacrifice, and I am so thankful for that.”
Ivan graduated with excellent grades from BC High School and would have likely received many grants and scholarships for his academic merits if he were a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. However due to his status, he must pay out of state rates out of pocket for college, but he is not letting that stop him. Ivan is committed to pursuing his dream and plans to attend a nearby technical college to pursue a degree in Nuclear Engineering.
We’re so grateful to Ivan for taking the time to share his story with us, and for all the work he does within his community. His story is one of hope and opportunity – key principles this country was founded upon – and one of countless examples as to why the existing DACA program must be protected. It also serves to remind us of the incredible benefit that could be added to our communities if Expanded DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)** programs were allowed to go into effect. We believe these are key steps along the way to a truly just and fair immigration system, and SC Appleseed will continue to support community members, like Ivan, as we fight together to ensure justice is truly available for all.
*While homicides have been increasing since 2002; Ciudad Juarez reached its peak number of homicides of 3,766 in 2010, placing it in the top 50 of the most dangerous cities in the world, according to National Geographic. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/06/juarez-mexico-border-city-drug-cartels-murder-revival/
**Expanded DACA and DAPA were announced by President Obama in November 2014. Unfortunately, these programs are currently blocked due to a court order. The case remains unresolved as a majority decision was not reached when heard before the US Supreme Court, due to the unfiled vacancy on the court. https://www.nilc.org/issues/daca/dapa-and-expanded-daca-programs/