I immigrated to this country when I was two. I didn’t have a say in the matter. My parents left Colombia while it was still a choice, while we had time for the visas to go through, and before the bloody civil war caused millions of our countrymen to flee their homes. My parents arrived in the US with a couple of suitcases, a young daughter, and a lot of grit and hope.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is an immigration policy regarding certain undocumented kids and young adults who arrived in the US before their 16th birthday and who meet specific requirements (including attending school or the military). It allows them to not be deported for two years and to have a work permit for those two years. It is not technically legal status, but it is two years of relative safety that can be extended by another two years, presumably indefinitely as long as they stay out of trouble. Before he was elected, DJT promised to end DACA (and DAPA for parents) if he became president. This hits close to home.
It wasn’t always easy growing up the oldest child in an immigrant family, but I always felt American. We spoke Spanish at home, but my schooling, books, and entertainment were all in English. I always felt connected to Colombia, but the United States is my home. I had no doubt in my mind when I took an oath to become an American citizen at age 16. Years later, I had no doubt when I swore an oath to support the United States Constitution as I joined the Minnesota bar and became an attorney.
All this has been possible because of a choice my parents made when I was two.
Many DACA kids are in the same situation as I was when I came to this country as a child. The US is all we know as home. We’ve grown up here, learned to read and write and date here, and feel that we are American. Without legal status or deferred action, these youth have made the best of a shaky situation, going to school without knowing if they or their parents would make it home at the end of the day.
President Obama’s executive order creating DACA gave 700,000 youth hope and the freedom to come out of the shadows and feel safe in the country that they know and love. Now, those 700,000 kids again find themselves on shaky ground, knowing that their time in their homes could end with an executive order.
What can you do?
Make a pledge to do good. Keep an eye out for legislation affecting our immigrant neighbors and call your representatives to voice your opinion. Consider donating to organizations that support our immigrant communities, such as ILCM, CLUES. Donate time or money to churches or other organizations in your neighborhood that provide sanctuary or services for immigrants.
Veronica Walther is the owner of Walther Goss Law, a fully bilingual law firm in Minneapolis, MN, where she represents immigration clients and defends injured workers’ rights. She is an initial chapter leader of Lawyers for Good Government and recently began the organization Meals for Freedom, which encourages groups of friends to gather for a monthly potluck fundraiser for organizations targeted by the DJT presidency.