When Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming approached UndocuHoyas last semester to see if anyone wanted to share their story with Congressman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), I never imagined that on Jan. 4 the senator would give voice to my journey from Mexico to California on the Senate floor.
But as surreal as the experience was, I hope my story can help change the hearts and minds that see undocumented immigrants like me as a threat. With the help of Sen. Durbin, I am advocating for the bipartisan Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act, or BRIDGE Act, which would allow close to 800,000 undocumented youth to continue living as they have since President Obama introduced his executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in 2012.
Under DACA, certain undocumented students could obtain a renewable two-year work authorization and deferral from deportation, allowing me to come to Georgetown, a place where I knew I could flourish― a place where a student, no matter their background, would be accepted.
After the general election, my feelings of happiness, appreciation and reflection on campus have been replaced by uncertainty and fear. As an undocumented student, the election of the President-Elect made me scared of what tomorrow will look like for people who are part of any marginalized community.
In 2005, my brother and I immigrated to the United States and joined my parents, who were both already living here. Like millions before us, we came on a journey north― for a better life. At 8 years old, I had to push myself to navigate an environment I was unfamiliar with, where I did not know the language and found it hard to communicate with my teacher and peers.
I distinctly remember when I first enrolled in second grade, my teacher began using a pocket Spanish-English dictionary. Despite her willingness to help me, I often cried in the middle of class and felt alone, unable to communicate with my teacher and my peers.
Yet by the end of third grade, I was able to communicate with others, and by seventh grade, I was reclassified as proficient in English and began taking honors classes. Yet my life took a turn as my parents separated and my mom began working as a dishwasher at a local restaurant – a job she continues to hold to this day.
After school, I would babysit my siblings and would wait until my mom was home from her evening shift. The buses did not run when she was off, so each day she would walk forty minutes back home. When she arrived, I would see her sacrifice. It fueled me.
Once in high school, I took advantage of every opportunity that came my way. While I was initially shy, I came to understand that I was the voice my mom did not have. I had the opportunity to be in high school― I had the opportunity to get an education. She did not. Her sacrifices pushed me forward. In the end, I graduated from high school in the top one percent of my class with straight A’s a passing score on all nine AP exams I took.
When I was accepted to Georgetown, I no longer felt fearful about my status, as DACA gave me the confidence and security I never had. I lived in fear and in the shadows, but thanks to the program, I was able to do things I otherwise would not be able to do― like traveling through TSA at the airport.
Yet this temporary protection is now threatened by the President-elect, who vowed during the campaign trail to terminate DACA and create a deportation force. We had just begun to come out of the shadows and now it seems we will be forced back into the darkness.
To make matters worse, those who have applied for DACA have given their information to the Department of Homeland Security. This personal information, which includes our address, could for the first time be used under the President-elect’s administration by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While many, including President DeGioia, my mentors at the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and so many others, have personally demonstrated their support for me, I continue to be scared about what could potentially happen.
As Hoyas, I ask that you continue to stand with me and with people from my community. The election might be over, but our ability to stand together as one is something we can continue to strive for on a day-to-day basis.
LUIS GONZALEZ is a sophomore in the College.
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