Gina M. (Raw-G artistic name) – 32, Oakland, CA, Born Guadalajara, Mexico

I learned English from listening to hip-hop when I first came to live with my sister in California in 1999. I’d always been passionate about this kind of music. I started writing poetry in Mexico when I was 12, and by 15, I was turning my poems to raps. I didn’t realize that hip-hop was a culture but I knew it spoke to outsiders like me. I could be different and creative and a part of something bigger than myself, like a voice for women’s equality and racial tolerance. I was a founding member of Guadalajara’s all-women pioneering hip-hop crew, Mujeres Trabajando.

 I came to the States to give my unborn son a better life. I had nothing but my son Hugo and my dream to pursue a career in hip-hop. At first I tried to get my GED on my own because I had no time for school while working anywhere I could. Finding a living-wage job was hard because I was undocumented and actually finalizing my GED still seems elusive.

As an artist, I like to think that my work has no borders but I certainly can’t travel without documentation. I can’t even visit my family in Mexico. I can’t go back, not now anyway. I wasn’t able to finish the process of applying for deferred action because I didn’t have all the required documentation. I’m also afraid of becoming too exposed in the application process because I’m not sure that President Obama’s actions will remain the law. I may qualify for DAPA if it ever makes it out of the courts, but first I must have more faith in the system – a belief that applying and putting myself out there won’t jeopardize my already precarious status. I couldn’t bear to be separated from my son.

My career will depend on my music becoming better known but this too comes with the knowledge that such exposure may get me deported. I’m too impatient and too ambitious to wait for government permission to live my life. I’m a fighter and a doer. While I work on my career, I also work for social justice and immigration reform in my community.

I must stay in the U.S. for my son. He’s the reason I came in the first place, to provide for him. I earn my way and take nothing from anyone. My son is also an artist. He dropped his first album at 14 and he works as an MC and produces videos. I have taught him to appreciate life, to achieve, to push himself toward his goals. I remind him of how I came from nothing and how I’ve never given up. I now have my own studio and my own company. My first album, Esperanza, came out this past July and I maintain greater economic stability through my work for an entertainment company. My son and my music are my life. I’m a poet and I hope to make the world a better place through my songs.

 

D.D. – 28, New York City, Born in Belize

With the help of my aunt who is my adopted mom, I have made a life for myself and my two-year-old daughter in Manhattan. Arriving in the States in 2003 on a tourist visa, I never returned to Belize, even though I have siblings there whom I miss.

Since my aunt works for Manhattan College, I’m able to attend school tuition-free and I’m working on completing my last semester of study for a BA degree in sociology with a minor in education. I want to help others and make a positive difference in the world. When I graduate, I hope to land a paid internship in my field.

Qualifying for DACA changed my life in so many ways. I was able to work, go to school and establish credit. I could live my life with more certainty and less fear, even though I know DACA is more of a reprieve than a solution. It’s still a real blessing.

I’m earning my right to stay every day by getting my education, paying my way and being a good citizen in my community. I’m raising my child on my own though her father contributes what he can. Just like most parents, I want my daughter to have every opportunity and a sense of belonging. No matter how hard life is for me, I am determined to succeed and I surround myself with other highly motivated, positive people.

Being undocumented, even with the limited protection of DACA, has made it hard for me to be open and trusting. Fearing the worst while constantly working toward fulfilling my goals – this is my undocumented state of mind. It is always with me but so is my determination to overcome all of life’s obstacles and to live a full life.

Anthony N. – 26, Los Angeles, CA, Born in Philippines

Brought to the states when I was 11, I never asked about my immigration status. My family didn’t discuss it. In fact, this topic is rarely discussed in the Filipino community. The Tagalog term for those in the country illegally is a pejorative that means always in hiding. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized I was undocumented. Having landed an internship in Washington, DC, I had to provide a Social Security number, which I didn’t have – at least not until I signed up for DACA.

When President Obama announced DACA, I was at first hesitant to participate — not knowing if I could trust the system. In the end I decided to apply for the program.  But most of my Asian counterparts didn’t, both in my community and across the nation – Asian application figures hover in the 20% range. Since applying for DACA, I have gone to work for Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles. My goal is to reach out and empower others like me, who qualify for DACA, but are weary of applying, especially now with much of the President’s programs tied up in the courts. I’m no longer afraid and have no intention of hiding. This past February, I was interviewed by the L.A. Times and put my story out for the world to see under the headline: Missed Chance. It was important for me to encourage other DACA-eligible Asians to not miss this opportunity.

Edilsa Argentina L. – 23, Austin, Texas, Born in Guatemala

It’s a very hard story to tell, even now after 10 years. I was 13, caring for my siblings in Guatemala, when I was kidnapped and separated from them. I was supposed to be responsible for my siblings but I wasn’t even able to take care of myself. My captor took me from place to place where I was told to serve other people. I was shoved in cars and made to walk for miles. I didn’t know where I was and couldn’t really communicate with
those I saw. I couldn’t trust anyone. Once I was left in the desert for five days and nights with no food or water. Finally, someone picked me up and took me to a house where I was forced to clean. Again, I was relocated and taken to another house full of men. When they took me with them, I was hidden in a truck full of oranges. When I got out of the truck, I was forced to walk through the night to yet another place where a man tried to abuse me. Somehow I was able to escape. Walking through the streets in some strange town, I got help from a lady who told me I was in McAllen, Texas. She put me up in her home and located my mom who was already in the States. Since I had disappeared, my family feared the worst. But I wasn’t dead. No, thanks to God, I made it to the U.S. after a long, dark journey. I had survived. I got to hug my mother again.

 I’ve been in the States for a decade now and my life is much better. All I saw in Guatemala was hunger, poverty and homelessness. I have nightmares about being sent back. I don’t know what I would do if that happened. I would like for my family to be together but my two youngest siblings live in Guatemala, and my mother and my other sister live in Houston, Texas. One of my sisters and I are eligible for DACA. My high school teachers helped me pay for DACA. After graduating from high school, I started college. Since adolescence, I’ve endured homelessness and hunger, even after arriving in the U.S. With DACA, I got the papers necessary to work and to get treated more fairly. No one believed I could go to college but I have, and I’m studying very hard. I’m also working in a real estate company. I can improve my life and help support my family. I hope to have a career in finance and international relations or economics. And I don’t have to be afraid of being deported as long as there is DACA. My ultimate dreams are to own my own company and to be united with and help support my family. I want to do what I can to make their lives easier, especially my mom. Currently, I’m involved with the DACA clinics at the University Leadership Initiative at UT Austin. I help others complete their paperwork and learn more about their rights and all that still needs to be done for immigration reform. I know I can make a difference, that I can contribute to America.

Jossie C. – 21, Los Angeles, Born in Guatemala

What I remember most about the 2500-mile journey my grandma and I made from Guatemala to the Mexican border was being afraid – afraid of the authorities, scared of the coyotes who were paid to get us into the States and terrified of being separated.  I was only three and my abuela had been my mother since my parents had departed for the U.S. to make a life for us.  We were all supposed to be together again, but we had to first get across the border. Only one of us made it. When my grandmother was turned back, I was left with total strangers, a child in between two countries, wondering if I would ever see my grandmother or parents again. I had no idea what was to become of me. It was a moment I will never forget.

For me, the story has a good ending. I was reunited with both my parents and my grandmother. I have grown up in Los Angeles with my brother and sister – all of us determined to get an education. With my bilingual skills, I now intern for a Hispanic marketing communications firm and have plans to go to college. When DACA was first introduced, I wasn’t sure I could trust anyone, but I was encouraged by my parents and motivated by my own desire to fully realize my potential. With the help of an attorney, I signed up for DACA and was accepted into the program. I now have the documents I need to succeed: driver’s license, work permit and Social Security card. Currently, I’m in the process of renewing DACA online. Taking advantage of DACA has made a real difference in my life and I’m sharing my story in the hopes that other Dreamers will join me.