Written for the Advocacy Corner Blog by Dynasty Ceasar, Racial Justice Trainer, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin
Every Saturday for the last three months, I’ve gathered with good friends. As we enter two at time in a quiet place we find ourselves in a lively conversation discussing race, politics, and what it takes to change the world. On this particular day, we transitioned from talking about changing the world, into discussing changing our geographical location. It was then that I was introduced to the truth about the harsh reality of immigration in the United States.
As a young person, I can recall speaking to a staff member of German descent at my high school who migrated from Germany. She told me that in order for her to gain citizenship she needed to take an extensive test on US History. Even at that age, I knew that there was something wrong with this process, as I, a born US citizen, had not learned most of what she had to know. What I didn’t know is that her experience, though taxing, was one that is common for most white immigrants, and is rarely afforded to immigrants of color.
On this Saturday, I learned, while talking to friends, that there are layers to immigration. What I classified as one experience was later divided by a deeper understanding of the different statuses held within this country. One household could have members of mixed status. In this household, one member, for example, could be undocumented, while another could be a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, and another, could be first-generation citizen.
A DACA recipient can obtain a driver’s license, work authorization, and is presumed to have protection from deportation but is unable to leave the United States. The current climate, however, does not afford this opportunity to those who seek asylum. There is not a system set in place for those who are seeking United States Citizenship.
No new DACA applications are being accepted. This means that undocumented youth who are recent high school graduates will not become DACA recipients. As a result, they are vulnerable to deportation and cannot access “The American Dream,” which will ultimately cause them to live in the shadows of their own dreams.
This I learned, from my friend who is a DACA recipient, whom I have spent an immense amount of time with. It was up until I suggested that we take a vacation out of the country, on this particular Saturday, that I realized that she, a taxpayer, was captive to a nation that never acknowledges her contributions to its economic status. A nation that refuses to acknowledge that she exists.
We undermine story telling with data that doesn’t align with the personal experiences of those individuals represented in it. I chose to listen to someone close to me and their lived experience. She empathized with Rupi Kaur’s poem, “Immigrant,” as it expresses all of what she feels. Kaur writes, “They have no idea what it is like to lose home at the risk of never finding home again… to have your entire life split between two lands and become the bridge between two countries.” (The Sun and her Flowers, p. 119).
In Spanish, Ni de aqui, ni de alla.