When Gabriela talks about her hopes and dreams, she doesn’t sound much different from other ambitious young Americans. But as she tells more of her story, she reveals that she has had to fight harder than most to make her dreams a reality.
Gabriela came to the U.S. with her mother when she was nine years old. She did well in school, and during her high school years participated in Jr. ROTC. During her senior year she was offered a military college scholarship, but had to turn it down because of her immigration status. “I loved America. I wanted to serve in the military,” she remembers, “but I couldn’t because I was undocumented.”
Instead, Gabriela chose to study political science and sociology in college, hoping that she would somehow be able to put her degree to work after graduation. She was frustrated that being undocumented was keeping her from planning her future. At heart, Gabriela was a dreamer, but the uncertainty of being undocumented was an ever-present obstacle to those dreams.
In 2012, things began to change. The introduction of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA, allowed Gabriela to apply for work authorization, secure a driver’s license, and receive temporary protection from deportation. “DACA was a huge relief. I got my driver’s license when I was 29 and it was one of the happiest days of my life!” she recalls. “Just having that piece of plastic changed my outlook and made such a difference for me. After 10 years of driving and working with such uncertainty, I was able to live with peace of mind.”
Gabriela was finally able to plan her future and pursue a career. Today, she is a case worker for at-risk women and children, using her college degree and making a difference in her community. Now her family is growing and she has a son who is just a few months old.
DACA has allowed her to dream again.
But now, all that could change. The DACA program is currently set to expire, and if Congress does not pass a long-term legislative solution for Dreamers, thousands of young people like Gabriela will lose their work authorization and be at risk for deportation. Once again, Gabriela is living in uncertainty. But she is doing what she can to prepare for what may lie ahead, saving up for when her work permit will expire. She even questioned if she should purchase a crib for her son. It just seemed like too big an expense.
“I’m tired,” Gabriela sighs, “I just want to live without all these worries. I want a future for my baby. I want to give him even more than my parents were able to give me.” So, she takes every opportunity she can to educate others about Dreamers, and to urge them to act. “A lot of people don’t want to get involved in politics because it’s messy,” she says, “but there’s no other way to change things. We can’t just look the other way.”
If we, together with Gabriela, refuse to the look the other way, and instead choose to stand with Dreamers, thousands of young immigrants may once again have the chance to boldly pursue their dreams.
To contact your Members of Congress and urge them to pass a legislative solution for Dreamers like Gabriela, visit PowerToAct.org.