I’m a “dreamer.” This week, the Trump administration acted to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that transformed my life and the lives of hundreds of thousands like me. But I’m not giving up. In fact, I’m suing. This president may think he can knock us back or kick us out, but this is our country, too, and we aren’t going anywhere.
I arrived in New York City with my family in the 1990s, when I was just starting school. I was born in Morelos, Mexico, but New York is my hometown, and I have no memory of my birth country.
My mom raised four boys on her own, working long days at a factory and evenings waiting tables. She sacrificed everything so my brothers and I could succeed. Mom always told me to work hard and get good grades — and I did. I loved bringing home my report card and making her so proud. I loved school, especially social studies and English classes. I wanted to read books from all over to learn about the diversity in our world, the richness of culture and the thousands of different languages spoken.
It wasn’t until high school that I discovered I was undocumented. In 2008, I was preparing to become my family’s first high school graduate and had started to think about college. Then my mom sat me down and told me. What had once seemed like a world full of opportunity shrank dramatically. Without a Social Security number, I wasn’t eligible for financial aid or most scholarships. Even in-state universities were just too expensive for my family without some assistance.
I didn’t want to tell many people about being undocumented. Even in a city of immigrants such as New York, you can feel vulnerable. But I was determined to get to college. After graduation, I began to work so I could save money for tuition. I worked when I could, saving as much as I could.
Even once President Barack Obama’s administration announced DACA in 2012, it took a while before I felt comfortable applying. I was nervous to come forward and share my personal information with the very government department that could deport us. But I finally worked up the courage and applied in 2014.
I was approved for DACA in February 2015 and issued a three-year work permit. I was relieved and hopeful. DACA was going to change my life, allowing me to work and earn a higher wage and go to school. But then, that same month, I got terrible news.
The Obama administration had recently issued new guidance for DACA, changing the length of the work permits from two years to three, but the state of Texas and 25 other Republican-led states sued the federal government to block the policy altogether.
Just as I was issued my three-year work permit, a federal court in Texas blocked this new expansion of DACA, along with DAPA, a companion program designed to provide work permits and deportation relief to our parents. Before I even received my work permit, the federal government told me it was revoked as part of the nationwide injunction ordered by the court. My work authorization was cut from three years to two. I knew this wasn’t right. So I teamed up with Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Law Center and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at the Yale Law School to go to court and fight back.
That lawsuit has been going on for a year. In the meantime, with DACA, I was able to take college classes. I started earning more in my job and paying more in taxes. After so many years of working hard on her own to support us, it’s my turn to take care of my mom. I can do that now because of DACA.
My work at a nursing home facility feels meaningful. Every day, I help people with health issues — from car accident injuries to brain tumors, and everything in between — get better. When I was young, I saw how my mother was treated for a hernia at the hospital, when none of the doctors could speak to her. I was shocked a doctor could not communicate with her patient. I want to help take care of people like my mom.
I was working on Tuesday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the termination of DACA. I was with patients and couldn’t listen to his speech. Friends were texting me throughout the day, sharing their fears with me. I wanted to cry at work, but I knew that I couldn’t give up.
I knew that we needed to fight. The U.S. Constitution protects all of us from discrimination based on race, ethnicity or national origin, among other factors. From the start of President Trump’s campaign, he targeted Latino and Mexican immigrants; now he’s violating our rights by targeting us and ending DACA for no good reasons. That’s why I asked the court to amend my earlier challenge to charge that the administration’s termination of DACA violates federal law.
After hearing the news about DACA, my mom told me to be strong and not to give up. She said when we fall down, we get back up to fight — and that’s exactly what my lawyers and I will do when we have a hearing on this case next week.
I’ll see you in court, Mr. President.
Martín Batalla Vidal is a plaintiff in Batalla Vidal et al v. Baran, a class-action lawsuit about DACA. He is also a member of Make the Road New York, a grassroots community organization in New York offering services for and organizing immigrants.
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