'That Was Our Great Hope': DACA Recipients Worry About Future, Dreams

CAFCA | September 06, 2017 |

For 16 years, Vania Galicia and her family have been hoping that they might be able to buy a

house, but they couldn’t do it because of their undocumented status.

But when Galicia and her brother and sister received DACA status several years go, Vania, a freshman at Eastern Connecticut State University, said it gave them hope that they would be able to work and build up the credit they would need to eventually qualify for loans to buy a house.

“That was our great hope, but now it’s shaky,” Galicia said Tuesday as she gathered with other students outside the student center at Eastern.

Vania was one of about a hundred students who were part of an emotional protest against the Trump administration’s plan announced Tuesday to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.

Many of the students, including Galicia, spoke about how DACA had brought stability to their lives and allowed them to hope for a future where they could graduate from college, buy a car, and have successful careers. They also voiced their determination not to let the Trump administration’s decision hold them back.

“I consider this town my home, this is where I grew up, where I went to school, where I made friends and where my memories are,” Galicia said. “However, growing up undocumented definitely made me question if I really belonged here, not because I ever doubted it but because I constantly would hear news sources and media outlets telling me otherwise.”

Galicia said it hurt to hear herself and her family referred to as not just “illegal” but as “illegal aliens.”

“As a kid those words really hurt you, but as a human being in general they dehumanize you,” she said.

Galicia said she thinks the Trump administration “doesn’t fully grasp the fact that we’re human beings. I’m really, really mad because this isn’t just about politics and they need to realize that, that we’re not just pieces in their chess game that they can push around.”

Galicia’s mother, Rocio Bacilio, who was also at the event, said in Spanish that she doesn’t think people understand that her children are more American than they are Mexican because they grew up here.

‘America Is My Home’

Johana Vazquez, an Eastern freshman whose family brought her from Mexico to her home in Arkansas when she was 2, said she knew she came from another country but didn’t understand the impact of that until she turned 14 and wanted to get a driver’s permit like all of her friends.

“I whined and my family finally explained to me my undocumented status,” Vazquez said. “I could not get my driver’s permit and work legally because I did not have a social security [number]. I was in disbelief. The lack of a number and a piece of paper determined that I was not an American citizen when all my life, I had felt like nothing else.”

“America is my home. It is the only home I have ever known. I entered kindergarten here and I graduated from high school here,” she said.

Vazquez said the worst of it was that she felt like she had no control of her life. “I was a hardworking student and an active member of my community, but none of it seemed enough. When DACA surfaced it gave me something to hold onto. I could go to work, go to college and drive like any other citizen. DACA allowed me, a girl from Arkansas, to achieve a full-ride scholarship to Eastern.”

Vazquez is one of dozens of students at Eastern who qualified for scholarships through TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship, a program that provides scholarships for DACA recipients.

Vazquez said she has a younger sister who is also benefiting from DACA and “still has dreams and a vision to accomplish” and an older sister, who together with her husband, has DACA status and is therefore able to work and provide for their two young American-born children.

“As of right now, our lives are at the mercy of government leaders,” Vazquez said. “These are leaders who do not know us. They do not know the sacrifices our parents have made for us and things we have accomplished in our lives.”

Seeking Better Opportunities

Jafet Aparicio, also a freshman at Eastern, remembers crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. as an 8 year old, with his mother and sister. Their father, who was already in North Carolina, had sent for them.

“It was very late at night, a lot of running was involved, crossing a river, hiding because we didn’t want to get caught,” Aparicio said. “All I knew was we were on our way to see my father, so that’s what kept me calm going through the process.”

Like so many families, Aparicio said his was looking for better opportunities in the United States for their children. Once across the border, they were crammed into a small shed with eight other people and then eventually moved to a motel where they stayed for a couple of days before traveling by van to North Carolina.

Aparicio, who also is a DACA recipient, said he could not afford to go to a four-year college in North Carolina because he would not qualify for federal or state aid. However, through the TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship he was able to come to Eastern.

He is studying computer science and hopes to become a software developer. However, the elimination of DACA is “very nerve-wracking, knowing that I won’t be able to have the basic rights other have — being able to drive without the fear of getting stopped and deported, being able to work to sustain myself and others and attend school.”

If DACA is eliminated, he said, “I hope something better comes along or at least [Trump] thinks about us, the DACA students who are walking proof that we aren’t here to do any harm. We’re here to get an education.”