March 4, 2018
‘With God, anything is possible’
For this DACA recipient, poverty, fear and heartache were nothing compared to the unlimited power of God
By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic
Editor’s Note: The person highlighted in the article below has given permission to use her name in the story. The SKC asks for the reader’s understanding that due to the current climate regarding immigration, we have chosen not to use her name and risk any possible negative backlash to her or her family. She sent the following letter to the SKC -- a further testament to her courage:
“I spoke to my parents, and we have decided to not be afraid. You can publish the article, and use my name if you wish. There’s nothing I’m ashamed of. On the contrary, we are very proud of everything we have accomplished, since it has been with a lot of work and sacrifices! At the end of the day, nothing would have been possible without God and his mercy, which is something that I would love for people to understand. His mercy doesn’t have limits, and the impossible can become possible with him.”
+ + +
First, there is a smile, wide and without pretense.
“Looking back, I’ve always been a happy person. Like, life is good,” she said. “Life is good.”
The smile fades. She’s in her 20s, a professional having earned a bachelor’s degree. Yet, as a recipient of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), her future is in question.
“I come from a very humble background,” she said. “I remember seeing my mom struggling to find food for us, having to borrow money from other people or other family members because we were barely making it.”
She is weeping openly now as she recalls her childhood in a small town in Mexico.
“I remember my mom not having shoes because they were using everything they had so we wouldn’t suffer, so we wouldn’t go hungry,” she recalled. “And you know, at that point in my life, I never realized that we were struggling. My parents were very cautious to make sure that we wouldn’t know, that we would be okay. As long as we had food, we were okay.
“We had always been very strong in our faith. We were going through hard times, but God is with us, and we’re going to make it.”
At 10, her parents faced an impossible decision, the magnitude of which no one who has dug generations of roots into the soil of the United States could begin to imagine.
“Being in a small town, we always heard about the American dream,” she said. “You hear about how emigrating to the United States will help you, will better your kids’ lives. You want a better future for them. What wouldn’t you do for your children?
“We took the risk. We left everything behind.”
Here is where the question undoubtedly arises: Why didn’t you just “get in line”? Do it legally? Legalize your status, come to the States and not have to live in hiding?
The answer is simple to all those who live the nightmare: There is no line. There are categories. A category for immigrants. A category for family migration (also called “chain migration”) or employment. A category for refugees. And each one has thousands upon thousands of people on the waiting list. Only a limited number for each category are allowed into the United States each year.
“My parents always believed in education,” she said. “That was one of the main reasons we came here, being able to get that education and better ourselves and our communities. I remember having to walk to school on cold mornings because if we got pulled over, we would be taken to court. Of course, they would investigate our status, and that would mean we would be taken back to Mexico—back to the struggle.”
Most deportations happen to people who are either trying to get their proper documentation, or simply can’t afford it. Huddled masses aren’t known for their great wealth, which it what it costs just to get started. Once you have the money, you must follow a bureaucratic nightmare of red tape.
“At that point I’m thinking, I have to make this work because my parents put their lives at risk for us to be able to make it. And that was always my motivation. They made a sacrifice. We can do it. With God, anything is possible.”
Without the ability to drive, and without the ability to apply for financial aid, her dream of going to college would remain just that: “I’m thinking, Maybe college is not a possibility. Maybe the risk that my parents took, maybe everything that we’ve been through, is not going to be worth it.”
She paused for a moment.
“I’ve always been very blessed. I always wonder, God, why are you doing this? Why are you throwing in another obstacle? But God has always put a lot of really good people in my life. Teachers are angels. They encourage me. In the times when I thought about giving up, they were like, No, we’re going to find a way.”
A teacher advised her to apply for community-based scholarships.
“My dad, he worked. He worked all week except for one day a week. He’s always gone by 4 a.m., and he doesn’t get home until 5:30 p.m. And he worked and he worked and he’s still working. Without his help, I wouldn’t have been able to afford college. We had to cut back on a lot of things for me to be able to go to college.
“Even though I thought I wasn’t going to make it, everything is possible with God, and I was able to go to college.”
During her second semester—amid her struggles to pay tuition, to afford the unbelievably high costs of textbooks ($100 to $500, she said), and amid her inability to obtain employment, something occurred that only someone in her situation could clearly call a miracle.
“God puts everything in place,” she said, her wide smile back. “[Congress] passed DACA. That allowed me to be able to work, which helped me so much. It changed my life. It was perfect timing. I came back that summer to southwest Kansas and was able to go to work.”
DACA did not present a path to citizenship, but rather created a two-year period in which qualifying immigrants who passed a stringent background check could both obtain a driver’s license and work while their paperwork was being processed (a process which can take more than a decade). After two years, they could reapply.
“I graduated from the university with my bachelor’s degree,” she said, proudly. “You sometimes think, it’s not possible. It’s not possible! But it is! With God, everything’s possible. That’s why I’m so strong with my faith. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping others. I wouldn’t be right here right now if not for the people who helped me and motivated me when I almost gave up.”
With the renewed focus on DACA and its possible dismantling, so too has come misconceptions and, sadly, blatant racism regarding those who belong to the program.
“When people hear about DACA recipients or people with my status, they sometimes call us criminals. I’m not a criminal! The only thing I want is to work, to help better my community. My gosh! I want to make the world a better place! I just want to help. I don’t want anything in return! I just want to be able to help my parents and my brothers; I want to be able to help my community.
“It’s scary sometimes for me to share this story. I don’t want to be afraid anymore of saying that I am a dreamer. I’m proud to be a dreamer. Being a dreamer doesn’t mean that you are a criminal. Being a dreamer doesn’t mean that you are taking advantage of the system. We are not!
“When I was at the university I thought, I have to go back to that community that gave me scholarships when no one else would give me anything. I have to go back and help my parish that helped me grow in my faith. That’s who I am right now. That’s why I don’t give up. With God, anything is possible.”