It's a happy day for me and many other immigrants! President Obama's sweeping immigration policy reform, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which the White House mandated two months ago, goes into effect today. Those of us who benefit--basically Americans who were brought into this country without documents when they were under 16, have gotten (or are trying to get) an education, or have served in the armed forces--can begin the application process to get permission to remain and work in this country legally without fear of deportation for at least two years.

I count myself among those who are affected by this new policy because even though I'm a U.S. citizen today, I didn't start out as a legal immigrant when I came into this country. 

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Yes, you read that correctly. I am outing myself: I came into the United States illegally when I was 7 years old. My mom and I came in through Reynosa, Mexico into McAllen, Texas one April day. I wasn't even aware of the future ramifications of what my mom was doing or what it really meant for me. All I knew was that I was coming to Los Estados Unidos to live--and I honestly can't remember much of those days, except how cool the ice cream was in this new country!

This is why I feel personally affected by this change in policy. For all of the kids who had been fighting for the DREAM act to pass, the news of this policy change and halt in these unfair deportations was a sweet victory. (Even though they're still not technically legal residents, this new law also means that fear of deportation has become a non-factor when trying to apply for jobs or continue their studies.)

I became a legal resident a few years after coming to the U.S.--a result of my mom's wedding to my amazing stepdad, who was a citizen. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn't had the luck and luxury of being able to legalize my status so early on. I have read the heart-wrenching details of kids (like I once was!), who are dying to go to school and take advantage of the opportunities here, but were denied because they were brought to this country illegally. 

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I can't even imagine what would have happened to me if when I was 18 and ready to start college if I would have been told I could NOT because of my legal status. I didn't even fully understand any of that when I was a teenager. I was 100 percent American--I mean, I was obsessed with Nirvana and Biggie at the time (cough, cough, I know I'm dating myself)--and had absolutely no connection to Colombia except for the family that still remained there. But if my mother and I hadn't gotten so lucky, I may have had to give up my dream of going to college, and, worse yet, may have had to leave the only life I really knew to go back to my parents' native country.

 

My heart breaks every time I read about a young Latino who isn't allowed to attend her dream school because of something that is completely out of her control. Being a child who had no choice when her parents decided to move to the States illegally. I am lucky to have been able to go to college, work, and live here, with all my documents in place. But I know I could have just as easily been one of the ones fighting to stay here. And because of that, I'll always advocate for the rights of all of us as immigrants--illegal, undocumented, or otherwise--in this country. 

Do you think these young people should be allowed to go to school and work in the United States? Is there anything you'd change about this policy? Tell us in the comments below!

About the author

Yuliana is the Assistant Managing Editor of Mamás Latinas and a new-ish mamá (as her son is almost a toddler, she can't claim new mami-hood anymore). She was born in Medellín, Colombia and raised in New Jersey.

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Bonita2

yo tambien vine ilegal a este pais y ahora soy ciudadana pero no me gusta que usen la inmigration solo por conseguir el voto latino y que pasa con todas las personas indocumentadas y que ba a pasar cuando se les vensa el permiso yo creo que como todo ser humano tendriamos que ser tratados igual es mi opinion !

Mami_...

Wow, what story!

nonmember avatar
I think it should change to 18 and younger...
Spang...

@Bonita2, yo estoy de acuerdo contigo, pero peor es nada. Si el permiso se vence, lo tienen que volver a renovar. No es la mejor solución, pero peor es que estos pobres jóvenes no pueden tener una vida normal sin tener que esconderse ni poder estudiar y salir adelante.

@Yuliana, thanks for sharing your story! That's truly amazing and your mom must be a very strong woman to have made the decision to cross the border with you. My story is nothing like yours, but I too feel so much pain for all these immigrants who, until now, didn't really have any options to succeed in the only country they call home!

marip...

Wow, thanks for sharing your story. People need to recognize & understand who this law effects. They don't realize it's their neighbors, friends, classmates...you never really can know how this feels unless you've walked in their shoes. Your mom was brave to bring you to the U.S. for a better life...

lilne...

Thank you for sharing your story. Even though I am a citizen I have always stood up and advocated for immigration. I truly hope that one day it does change!! I especially hope that the DREAM act does pass I wish nothing more than success for each and everyone of them!!

nonmember avatar
As an legal immigrant and a US citizen, I think this policy needs to be rescinded and the existing immigration laws need to be enforced. These kids that are affected did nothing wrong, but someone else did - their guardians, and these people are being encouraged to do it again and again, by getting what they always wanted - removal of deportation for their kids. This system is unsustainable, as there are probably at least 6 BILLION people in the world that want to come here, so why should we take in the lawbreakers and not those who wait in line? And yes, we do have to choose - because we cannot take in all 6 billion people. This action, besides being in violation of the law, is also setting the wrong precedent - come here illegally and get to stay; or wait to come legally for decades.
Why do we have laws against PLAGIARIZE, STEAL, ROB, EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR, KILLING and TORTURE? Answer those and see where your conscience lies?
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