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A note from Karla - Vecinos

Marianne Martinez
  • September 18, 2017

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was an executive action introduced by President Obama back in June 2012. DACA provided protection from deportation as well as a work authorization for minors that entered the United States before the age of 16, have no criminal record, and are either in college or graduated from high school.

DACA changed my life and that of 800,000 recipients significantly and opened a world of opportunities for me as a student pursuing higher education as well as bettering my life as a whole. Many of us have now been able to pursue careers, buy a car, and buy our own homes. With DACA, I was protected from deportation and I obtained a social security number and work authorization. I was eligible to get my driver’s license and to get a better paying job in the field I wanted to work in. It provided some relief from the constant anxiety and fear of my family or myself being deported.

On Tuesday, September 5, that protection and relief from deportation was stripped away after an announcement made by Jeff Sessions. As a recipient of DACA, I will be left out in the open at risk for deportation, with my dreams to pursue a career in the medical field stumped. I came to this country at 8-months-old through no fault of my own and because my parents yearned for me to have a better quality of life and opportunities that they knew I would not have living in Mexico. They have made many sacrifices for me to be here and to obtain a higher education, from struggling to make ends meet and working arduously to helping pay for my college education.

Even though I received a social security number, I am not eligible to apply for FAFSA or aid to pay for my college education. I have been able to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Johnson C. Smith University, do intestinal stem cell research at UNC Chapel Hill, and work with such an amazing organization, Vecinos Farmworker Health Program. Through Vecinos I feel I have been able to come back full circle. My family once received services from organizations similar to Vecinos and now I am helping break down barriers so families like mine are able to receive care. I truly aspire to continue serving those with limited access to healthcare, whether that be here in North Carolina or anywhere else in the country.

The United States is where I’ve been raised and the only country I’ve known. This is home for me and my family. Throughout all this turmoil of emotions and uncertainty I still have hope that there is immigration relief ahead for myself and many others in my situation. That all of our hard work to achieve our dreams will not be in vain and we will have the opportunity to go about our days living peacefully in this country we call home. Many people have come to know me as an outreach worker at Vecinos but I share my story because I feel it’s important for people to understand the struggles of immigrants in this country. As a community, we must come together to support, educate, and organize to apply pressure to our senators and representatives to support comprehensive dream act.