Jaime Diaz, 27
It was at that moment that he realized the dreams he’s had since his parents brought him to this country as a young boy could indeed come true.
One day, he plans to give back to his community by becoming an elementary school teacher.
“Everything is starting to fall into place,” Jaime said. “Getting my work permit and Social Security card and other documents was like getting a whole load lifted off my shoulders. I feel more free because of DACA and I am no longer scared of the police or of being treated like a criminal.”
Alejandra “Ale” Estrada, 23
Alejandra Estrada hasn’t known any other home than the United States. She was just 3 months old in 1989 when her mother brought her and her sister across the U.S.-Mexico border. She excelled in school, and after high school graduation she began cleaning houses with her mother, with the two recently starting a small house-cleaning business.
Alejandra submitted her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals application and is hopeful it is approved so she can achieve her dreams—like attending college and majoring in early childhood education.
“A change of status could really change everything,” Alejandra said. “When I am with my friends, it’s like I’m a little kid. I can’t get a driver’s license so I have to always have someone pick me up. And even though I have been here since I was a baby, there’s still this feeling that I don’t belong. Becoming a citizen and getting all of that crazy stuff squared away will be an incredible relief.”
Luis Liang, 22
Luis Liang graduated from U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a bachelor’s degree. Born in Mexico and now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, he currently holds three jobs.
Luis remembers the day in summer 2012 when he learned about President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which would allow immigrants brought to the United States as children to apply for relief from deportation and for two-year renewable work permits.
“I saw the news on Facebook and I instantly called my mom,” he said. “DACA is going to allow me to apply to any job I want. It means I don’t have to worry now about all the barriers that have been in front of me for all these years.”
Luis hopes his DACA application will soon be approved, and one day dreams of leading a nonprofit organization that helps low-income students achieve higher education.
Carla Lopez, 23
By the time all of my peers were enrolling in driver education classes and mastering the rules of the road, I had already mastered the rules of how to go unnoticed. No jaywalking. No riding my bicycle without a helmet. And absolutely no mentioning my status as an undocumented immigrant to anyone. I was to do nothing that would set me apart from the rest.
I was 2 years old when my parents, wanting nothing more than to improve their lives—and mine, brought me to America from Mexico. We soon headed to the San Francisco Bay Area, where my parents held a number of jobs—construction, janitorial, washing dishes in restaurants—saving enough money to move away from the couch we shared in a friend’s home into our own one-bedroom apartment.
School became a priority, with me working hard not only to earn high grades, but to eventually make it into the University of California, Davis with money that my parents had saved for my education. But I constantly walked around in fear, wondering whether the immigration stances of my teachers and peers would affect their view of me. Adding to this confusion were the stories being told by my peers and the media. I grew up in a world where immigration raids were taking place at work, school, and even in the “safety” of homes. For me, the time period between 5 and 6 a.m.—when immigration raids are usually conducted in homes—would be filled with much panic and anguish, as I would lay awake in my bed—afraid that either my parents or I would be next …
Jose Mendoza, 24
Jose Mendoza decided to become a nurse while he was taking care of his mother during her recent battle with breast cancer. With his mother now recovered, Jose is taking classes that will allow him to apply to a nursing program. Getting approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will allow Jose to pursue his newfound passion to help people in the same way that the nurses in the hospital helped his mother.
“You spend all this time waiting for something to happen, and now it feels like there is finally some progress to talk about,” Jose said after submitting his DACA application. “It’s not everything we were waiting for, but it’s something. And it’s given me a new motivation to try to advance myself and move forward to achieve my goals.”
Marco Quiroga, 26
Marco Quiroga wants to be a surgeon, and he says earning a work permit under the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will help him reach his dreams. Marco arrived in the United States from Peru when he was just 2 years old. After his parents separated because of domestic abuse, Marco’s mother singlehandedly raised him and three siblings while working custodial and cleaning jobs in Orlando, Florida.
“I always think of the effort and the sacrifices that my mother has made, and of how hard I have worked to get where I am today,” Marco said. “Getting approved for DACA will change my life. All I want is a chance to become a doctor and help people. That’s my passion. It shouldn’t be so hard for people like me to chase our dreams.”