Op-Ed: Now is the time for a full pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Immigration/Border, Opinion

Twelve years ago, when my father was deported, I was forced to grapple with the reality that for undocumented families like mine, the threat of being separated from the ones we love most would always be imminent. The truth is, the pain of my dad’s deportation has yet to heal. Added to this is the uncertainty of whether or not I or someone else in my family, including my mom or sister, could be deported, especially now.

In a cruel and malicious decision, Judge Andrew Hanen has ruled to partially end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program which protects hundreds of thousands of immigrant young people like me from deportation. In siding with Attorney General Ken Paxton, Judge Hanen’s ruling means that no new DACA applications, including my sister’s, will be approved, leaving her and hundreds of thousands of other initial applicants at risk of deportation. Now I fear my sister may have the same fate as our father.

Across the country, immigrant young people like me who have been temporarily protected under DACA are grappling with the exhaustion, frustration, and uncertainty that today’s ruling carries for our futures and our loved ones who are not protected under DACA.

For years, my family’s life has been left to the whims of the courts and politicians — including the Senators in our state Ted Cruz and John Cornyn — who have used the stories of undocumented young people like mine as political pawns while voting against bills like the Dream Act which would ensure I receive the protections I deserve.

Judge Hanen’s decision is a reminder that DACA has never been enough to keep me and my family safe from a system built to deport us. Until a pathway to citizenship is passed for all undocumented immigrants, our communities will continuously be at risk of detention, deportation, and family separation.

If my sister were to be deported, she’d be a stranger to Mexico and forced to leave the only community she’s ever known, loved, and built here in Houston with me. It’s taken many years of growth to get to the place I am in today; a place where I know that despite every attempt from officials in Texas who have tried to deport me, my sister, and my mom, we belong here.

After being told over and over again that I don’t belong, I grew up feeling ashamed to talk about my status and afraid that if I admitted I was undocumented, I would expose myself to deportation. But after surviving years of attacks, including this most recent one today, I have shed the shame I’ve carried with me for so long and refuse to live in the shadows any longer. I know that my power lies within the actions I take every day to protect myself, and the ones I love.

While I was too young to understand the decision my parents made to migrate to the U.S,. I know the strength and courage it took them to leave Mexico and fight for a better life and future for me and my sister. Their resilience runs through me and is something no one can strip away. Which is why I will continue to fight for citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, including the hundreds of thousands of DACA-eligible immigrant youth like my little sister who are now left in limbo following this ruling, along with the millions of others who, like my mom, never qualified for DACA in the first place.

Despite not being eligible for the program herself, my mom has been grateful for DACA, understanding that, in many ways, it has given me temporary relief and allowed me to create a life of my own. All the while, she continues to live her life in the shadows, holding her breath at the possibility that she may be deported next. No one should be forced to live in this fear.

Immigrant young people like me will always take action to protect our communities. Today is no different. After finding out that Judge Hanen ruled to partially end DACA, it wasn’t fear that rushed through my body. Instead, it was a deep understanding that in a country that tries to erase my family, my legacy will always be that I refused to accept the bare minimum. President Biden and members of Congress, your time to deliver citizenship is now. The only thing that can protect all immigrant youth like me and my sister, and other undocumented people from deportation, is a path to citizenship through reconciliation. I refuse to accept temporary. Not for me, not for my sister, not for anyone.

A member of United We Dream, Frida Adame, is an immigration advocate, social media influencer, and Project Manager at Ice Rink Events.

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