The Immigration Program Allowed Me to Pursue My Dreams Must Be Kept In Place

Photo by Melissa Artieda

I was working an unpaid internship in 2012 when I caught word of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) announcement via Twitter.

I ran to the office lobby, turned on the TV, and immediately knew right then that life would not be the same. I called my mother in tears and proceeded to tell her that my brothers and I would be able to benefit from a program that would temporarily shield us from deportation while allowing us to work and drive legally. I understood DACA was a temporary program that would not cover parents, but it renewed my commitment to fight for relief for the rest of the immigrant community.

Since that day I have taken every opportunity to grow, learn, and contribute back to my community. In 2013, DACA allowed me to re-enroll at Florida State University and pursue a Master’s degree in Public Administration. By 2014, I was in the middle of working a job in Tallahassee, Florida, studying for my master classes, and advocating at the Florida Legislature for a bill that would allow undocumented students to obtain in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. In a rare display of bipartisanship, the bill passed and was signed into law by Florida’s Republican Governor, Rick Scott.

I graduated with my Master’s in 2015, full of hope and energy that I would be able to put my education to good use. With degrees in hand, I was able to obtain a job as a digital immigration advocate — putting my years of experience and passion to good use. Simultaneously, and thanks to the new in-state tuition law in Florida, I was able to help both of my younger brothers enroll at Miami Dade College and Florida Internation University — they are currently pursuing degrees to work in business and communications, respectively.

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the DACA program, but perhaps the biggest one is that beneficiaries of the program are asking for a free pass. DACA does not grant citizenship; rather it allows individuals like myself, who have benefited from state-funded investments like public education, to move forward with their lives and continue to contribute to their communities. That means DACA beneficiaries could continue to pursue higher education, starting businesses, or putting their skills to use without the constant fear of deportation if the program is kept in place.

Originally published in the New York Times Opinion section.

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