Last updated on Sep 27, 2017
By Jacqueline Escobar
As many in our community are aware, President Donald J Trump has made the decision to end the DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals) program, an immigration policy that ensures that those who have entered the country illegally as children receive protection from deportation and also to be eligible for work permits. Approximately 800,000 individuals, referred to as Dreamers, are protected under this law. Most of them are employees or students pursuing an education that will provide better lives for themselves and their family.
Trump’s repeal of this law, announced on September 5, has caused not only fear but despair in our community. This is tearing families apart and making us question the idea of having the American dream. Many are in fear of deportation and are beginning to lose incentives to pursue their dream. Dreamers in fact are found almost everywhere, not only in our workforce, but also in our educational community.
Meet Gilberto, a 2017 graduate of Hempstead High School, who is now a freshman at Nassau Community College on a full scholarship as a Sillcox Scholar recipient. He is majoring in civil engineering and aspires to obtain a good job to support his parents. In the beginning of his senior year in high school, he was not aware of the college process and was fixated on the idea that he would not be able to further his education because of his citizenship status. From freshmen to senior year, Gilberto had made significant progress in mathematics, yet was not aware of how he could maximize his potential. When he realized he wasn’t eligible to apply for FAFSA because of his immigration status, he lost hope. However, with help from the team center at Hempstead High School, he was able to find a way to seek resources in order to attend college and further his education.
During the process, Gilberto mentioned his journey from Mexico into the United States to another DACA recipient, who has now obtained her bachelor’s degree in social work and is counseling students like Gilberto at Hempstead High School. Gilberto shared that as a boy, he was detained from police troopers while crossing the border to meet his mother. This was a devastating moment for his parents because they knew that their son wasn’t a criminal. Today, as Gilberto reflects on his journey, he is thankful he went through it to get to where he is. Because he did not have a work permit, he looked into volunteer opportunities in high school. He ended up volunteering at the Hempstead Public Library, and was able to finish his school work there as well as excel in his classes. Now a college student, Gilberto is thrilled with the opportunity to attend college. However, he wishes he was aware of other options, including DACA, which could have provided him with a work permit. He does not regret where he is now, however. He is thankful for the fear that pushed him to further his education.
Let’s also meet Anthony, another graduate from Hempstead High School, in the class of 2016. Anthony is also part of the DACA program and a Sillcox Scholar recipient. He is a pre-med student studying at Hunter College who aspires to become a medical doctor in the future. Anthony was born in El Salvador and crossed the U.S-Mexico border. This is one of the hurdles he faced at a young age. He only discovered he was undocumented during his sophomore year of high school. At first, he saw only how this would limit the options he would have in the college admissions process. But, he used this as a stepping stone to break boundaries and took the risk of seeking a school that would allow him to pursue a degree in the sciences for the next 4-5 years. With a passion to study the sciences and to restore the health of others, Anthony continues to influence other students to follow their dreams and to never stop learning. He influences students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and is passionate about helping those wanting to enter the medical field. He is grateful for the resources Hempstead High School equipped him with in order to be enrolled in Hunter College.
Anthony discovered DACA has been repealed while studying organic chemistry with a fellow classmate. “At first, I didn’t really know what to feel because it seemed unreal… as if I had wished upon one of my nightmares to become reality,” he said.
Anthony felt for the other medical students who were also DACA recipients, who would be greatly affected by this repeal. “As a pre-med student, I know the huge stress, challenge, and demand this field entails… and to just have all their hard work be placed in vein really tormented me,” he said.
Although devastated, Anthony does not let this stop him. He says he has faith for the future and when the opportunity arises, he will make his dream come true and make sure others will as well. He says he is now more motivated in his scholastic pursuits. Anthony has a message for fellow Dreamers. “Don’t allow this to constrain you guys. We’ve already succeeded in so many aspects of life. We’ve defied the norms placed on us by society and shall continue to do so through our success. We are titled DREAMERS for a reason, we hold potential to aspire for greatness… and let’s continue to do so,” he said.
What about the social worker who took Gilberto under her wing, who is also a DACA recipient? Well, meet Jasmine. Jasmine is now a graduate student at Stony Brook University, obtaining her master’s degree in social work. Jasmine has overcome the hurdle that English is not her first language, but she did not let this stop her. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she became driven to help other students achieve their dreams the same way she has been able to attain hers. She has decided to give back to her community by becoming an intern in the same place she graduated from, Hempstead High School. As a graduate of the class of 2012, Jasmine says that 2012, the year she graduated from Hempstead High School, was a blissful year for her as it was the year that the DACA program began. The program enabled her to attend Nassau Community College as a Sillcox Scholar and DACA recipient.
“I did not care about the amount of money I would have to spend for college,” Jasmine said. “This became a major positive change in my life and I’m very thankful… I never thought this dream would become a reality.”
Jasmine made remarkable contributions back to her community by counseling students in the teamcenter and developing groups for Dreamers like herself. She wanted Dreamers to know that they weren’t alone in the process of applying to college and in life. When Jasmine discovered Trump’s repeal of DACA, she also became devastated. She witnessed news about fellow Dreamers getting arrested while protesting the streets on New York City. “My heart just shattered into pieces; it felt like my soul just came out from the inside… I never expected that this repeal would ever come… Obama created this law to protect the dreamers, not to put us in fear,” Jasmine said.
Jasmine now questions what will happen after she obtains her master’s degree. This has not stopped her, though. Instead, it has given her a stronger motive to continue this good fight. She wants all Dreamers to know that they are all here to stay. Jasmine has also summoned the courage to share with her classmates at Stony Brook University that she is a DACA recipient.
“I think it is unfair to us Dreamers; we have proven enough that we are willing to work… I am willing to give back to students of all races and ethnicities… it just isn’t fair… this has been a major hit for us Dreamers,” Jasmine said.
Let’s face it, we’re all Dreamers in our educational community. Regardless of our socioeconomic backgrounds, we each are trying to pursue our dream. Although I am a citizen, I am proud to say that I am an advocate for Dreamers today because my parents faced hurdles at a young age as well. As time waits for no one, we should all continue to acknowledge our differences and have a better perspective of the shoes that we all have to walk in. Our Dreamers today and in the future will make more contributions to our community, whether they are citizens or not. We are all Dreamers.
[Editor’s Note: The Pioneer is publishing first names only of the Dreamers in order to protect their privacy and safety.]