When I was young, I was simultaneously closeted for being queer and in the shadows for being undocumented. While I’ve long been out and proud about both, I’ve learned first-hand that progress isn’t linear nor inevitable. Sometimes it takes decades for real change to come, and it always takes gutsy, unapologetic people pushing for it. Right now we have a golden opportunity to win citizenship for millions of young people – many of whom like me, call Texas home.
As a DACA recipient, I’m tired of the back and forth. Court decision after court decision, we find ourselves in a constant state of uncertainty and instability. We’re left never knowing when our work permits or protections from deportation will be taken away. While Congress diddles and gossips about whether they will take action on immigration, millions of immigrant youth like myself watch in disbelief, knowing that our lives depend on them taking action.
While communities all across Texas have greatly benefited from DACA, our Attorney General, Ken Paxton, has been busy in the courts propagandizing lies against the program. The reality is that Texas has significantly benefited economically and socially from immigrant youth and the DACA program. We have over 97,000 DACA recipients, who have $3.7B in spending power and contribute $436.8M in taxes. Over 14,000 DACA recipients own homes in the state. We are nurses, teachers, artists, community organizers, and yet, so much more than that. We are your family, friends, and neighbors. As a Texan, it’s especially hurtful to see our attorney general lead the fight to put hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and DACA-eligible youth like myself at risk of detention and deportation all around the country.
Unfortunately this attack against DACA and young people is nothing new. In the past few years, Texas state officials have worked overtime to attack the diverse youth who proudly and unapologetically represent the future of the country. From completely banning abortion, to censoring classroom discussions on race and sexuality, to denying the reality of climate change, right-wing politicians in Texas are hellbent on attacking progress and realities we have known our entire lives.
These attacks aren’t by chance. It’s clear that these politicians are focusing on the key issues that define the younger generations: race, immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, climate change, to name a few. As we proclaim our right to be who we want to be, free from criminalization, with a right to a liveable wage, an education, and a thriving planet, right-wing politicians feel threatened by our power. They fear that we will bring about an era in which we no longer put profit over people.
Yet, the Texas that I love and that has embraced me as my full authentic self is filled with Texans who don’t give up during hard moments, who step up and take care of each other. That’s why I’m calling on all my fellow Texans to demand action from Congress before the end of the year. Call on Senator Cornyn to deliver citizenship for immigrant youth now. Let’s not allow him to make excuses on why it can’t be done, let’s show him why it must.
DACA, like many of our other progressive victories, was not achieved through idleness, but by relentless organizing from undocumented youth and allies across the country demanding more. Through relentless organizing once again, we can not only defend the victories we’ve gained thus far, but continue pushing for those that will take us into a future free from detention, deportations, and criminalization, and abundant with prosperity, community, and freedom to be. Freedom from no longer having to hide in the place we call home.
Juan Jose Martinez-Guevara hails from Dallas, Texas and he is the Texas Advocacy Coordinator for United We Dream