When my family lived in El Salvador, gang members told my parents that if they didn’t pay a ransom, they would kill my brother and me. So my parents did what any loving mother and father would do — they fled.
Leaving their native country for the United States, Dallas specifically, meant that my parents had to give up their families, their house, their professions and their identities. In El Salvador, my father was a manager at an auto-parts company; now he is a construction worker. My mother was once the marketing director for a fashion company; now she works on the assembly line at an industrial bakery.
When I see the images of Central American migrants now heading to the United States seeking asylum, I see people who are trying to escape extreme poverty and violence — people just like my parents. They are trying to survive; they want their children to live.
I was 12 years old when my family arrived in Dallas in 2007. Unable to speak English, I was depressed and begged my mother to let me stay home from school. No one could understand me, so what was the point? My mother gave me the strength to push through my despair. I started going to the library and checking out two copies of the same book, one in English and one in Spanish, and taught myself English. I dove into my studies, taking college-level courses, and graduated from my high school as valedictorian.
One day during my junior year, I got a text from my mom while I was in tutoring: “Check the news.” That’s when I found out that the Department of Homeland Security planned to introduce the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which permits undocumented immigrants who arrived in this country as children to live and work in the United States. When I got home from school, my mother’s eyes were filled with tears. It felt a like light at the end of the tunnel for my family.
After graduating high school, I attended Texas A&M University on a scholarship, got my master’s degree in international relations at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, and I now work as an executive secretary for the city of Dallas. My work involves helping assistant city managers with their departments, which range from sanitation to parks and recreation to homeless solutions. I love doing work that helps make life better for city residents.
Unfortunately, my ability to serve the people of Dallas is uncertain. Last year, the Trump Administration announced plans to rescind DACA. On Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to block the administration’s attempt to end the program, but the Department of Justice has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to fast-track the case and hear it in this term. If the court rules in the administration’s favor, I’ll have to quit my job and be at risk of deportation.
When my family heard the news that Trump wanted to end DACA, it felt like that bright light of hope had been snuffed. It’s particularly frustrating because research shows that the country benefits from our work. According to the bipartisan nonprofit New American Economy, 90 percent of the DACA-eligible population 16 years old and older are employed and pay more than $3 billion in taxes each year. The most popular professions chosen by college-educated young immigrants are in fields where there is a high demand for skilled workers, such as accounting, nursing, teaching and technology.
For anyone who doubts our desire to contribute to our communities, I have one request: meet us. We are teachers, public servants, neighbors, classmates, coworkers — normal people. We are young adults who were fortunate to have parents willing to make enormous sacrifices on our behalf, simply because they love us.