DACA 101: What It Feels Like To Be A Dreamer

DACA coming to an end is one of the most terrifying and anxiety-inducing things to happen to Dreamers in the past decade.

President Donald Trump ’s administration announced Tuesday the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, often known as DACA, which currently provides a driver’s license, a work permit, and temporary protection from deportation to almost 800,000 young immigrants.

DACA coming to an end is one of the most terrifying and anxiety-inducing things to happen to Dreamers in the past decade.

Imagine being 11 years old, and after living in the United States for over ten years, you are consistently reminded that you would not be able to accomplish much due to your immigration status. That you wouldn’t get a job, go to college, or be accepted in the country that you grew up in due to your immigration status. That is, of course, after graduating from high school, trying to navigate the country’s broken immigration system, and paying taxes.

Then, years later, the U.S. Government comes along with an opportunity for you to pay a fee, undergo a background check, meet particular requirements, and surrender significant amounts private information in exchange for the ability to temporarily shed your fear of deportation, work, and drive. This is exactly what the DACA program did for me, and countless others, give us an opportunity to contribute back to the country that saw us grow up.

DACA brought much needed relief for the past 5 years. Now we face going back to the same struggles that plagued so many of us during our youth.

Knowing full well that DACA could not give us legal permanent residence or U.S. Citizenship, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers like myself spent the last five years working across the United States. Thanks to DACA, Dreamers have been able to build their lives, go to school and invest in the economy by buying a home or a car.

Now, in 2017, Dreamers are coming to find out that president Donald Trump is looking to potentially make us targets for deportation once again by terminating DACA. Many of us are dealing with the mental gymnastics of having news headlines, bloggers, and commentators tell us that DACA is ending tomorrow, the next day or next week. It is a cat and mouse game that wears us down to our core, a fire drill that makes us fear that our time in the United States could come to an end.

This is the reality that Dreamers are currently living in, myself included. We have consistently felt fear, anxiety, and even depression well before Donald Trump took office. It was routine for many of us to wake up every day wondering if the knock at the door was the neighbor or ICE agents seeking to deport us. Right now, Dreamers are facing the reality that our only lifeline in the United States could be taken away from us, that the personal information we provided the government could be used to track us down and deport us, and that our mental health continues to be tested in what can only be described as a psychological  pseudo-war.

I wrote this Twitter thread in hopes that allies and U.S. Citizens alike would get a glimpse of what it is like to be a Dreamer in the era of Donald Trump, especially as Trump considers winding down deportation protections for almost a million people:

The sense that #DACA could come to an end is terrifying. Outside of just that, there several aspect to consider that drain Dreamers daily. The thought that you would be stripped of your DACA status is not just traumatizing, it’s dehumanizing and exhausting.

DREAMers have been dealing with fear and anxiety since Trump came into office, and not just because the possible termination of DACA. We have witnessed Dreamers being arrested/deported, while simultaneously fearing for the safety of our undocumented parents.

Being undocumented feeds into your insecurities, stunts your emotional growth, and makes you doubt your abilities on a daily basis.

Not to mention that it also impacts other social aspects of your life. Try buying a round of drinks for your friends without a proper ID, or try explaining to your friend or significant other how your life is about to be impacted by a decision the President of the United States will make tomorrow.

I know all of this because I have been undocumented for some of the formative years of my life. I refused to “hang out” with friends, because I couldn’t drive and meet them. I also suffered rejection and heartbreak, after exposing my status to girls I dated while growing up.

By now you must be thinking to yourself, “these aren’t unique experiences, Juan.” And you are right; they are not. I am one of 800,000 DACA-recipients and one of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US.

What sets Dreamers apart is that we have no control over any of those situations. We can’t help being unable to obtain a driver’s license, we can’t help being unable to work and we can’t help if the government decides to send their “unshackled” deportation force to our home. All of this because we lack a simple piece of paper, that we can’t even obtain if we tried. Really.

All we have is hope that next week, next month, or even next year will bring some relief to our immigration dilemma. DACA brought that much needed relief for the past 5-years, and now we are facing going back to the same struggles that plagued many of us during our youth. Just imagine the mental toll that is taking on every single one of the 800,000 DACA beneficiaries right now.

If you want to explore a different perspective on everything I have discussed in this post, then I urge you to take a look at my friend’s Ciriac’s viral Twitter thread. She can tell you what DACA has done for her while growing up undocumented in Utah.

A version of this piece originally appeared on juansaa.com.