"Juan, que sabes de lo de Obama? Que va a pasar con nuestros papeles?"
It has been a little over two years since President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA). I still remember getting my work permit in the mail, months after joking with both of my parents that the reason why it was delayed was because of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) knew about my political activism. It was an exciting time, I could finally leave my job at the local ice cream store and put my political science degree to good use.
Two years later, pending on my DACA renewal, I am no longer obsessively checking the status of my second USCIS application. Rather, I spend time thinking about what will happen to my parents.
President Obama is set to announce a moderate overhaul to the nation's broken immigration system any day now, and while many questions have been raised about the scope of what this would mean for the millions of undocumented immigrants across the United States, I can't help but wonder if my parents will be covered.
"Ya ni me importa, Juan. Solo quiero verlos a ustedes felices"
For over ten years my parents have been wrestling with their immigration status, probably at a much deeper level than I have. In 2010 my mother's car got broken into and all of her personal belonging were stolen; including her only form of identification -- her Venezuelan passport. Their response? Endure. My mother knew that she could vent to me over the phone, a common practice for both of my parents, but was equally aware that reporting the crime would undoubtedly expose her immigration status to the local authorities. So off she went with a broken window and even less identification than the one she previously had.
Feeling like she was powerless in a situation where she was clearly the victim, my mother internalized the incident and moved on. After all, this is well too common among a community that is forced to leave in fear on a daily basis. She barely speaks of the incident as of today.
On a cloudless Miami morning in December, I received a text message from my father.
"Me paro la policia" it read, "I got pulled over."
Ever since the expiration of our documents in 2006, my family and I have been extremely cautious to avoid any and all scenarios that would lead to a police encounter. Driving at the speed limit, never driving late at night, avoid driving long distances. But people have to live and in Miami driving is a necessity, not a luxury nor an option.
"Donde estas? Cual policia?" I replied to my father, "Where are you? Who pulled you over?"
My father briefly called me and told him that he was a street away from his office, and that a "black police car" had pulled him over. Turns out that the "black police car" belonged to a Florida State Trooper, who proceeded to ask my father for his driver's license. At the realization that my father had been driving with an expired license, the State Trooper ordered my father out of the car, told him he was not allowed to drive anywhere and that someone would have to come pick him and the car up.
Or at least that is what I imagined that happened. My father barely speaks any English, and I lived through the whole ordeal from my kitchen -- standing by the phone to see whether my dad would call me back or if I would have to launch an online campaign to stop his deportation.
Months in court, and various attorney fees later, my father was able to put the whole ordeal past him. Like my mother, he internalized the whole affair, barely speaks about it and continues to drive to work on a daily basis.
"Juan, dime la verdad. Tu crees que tu papá y yo entremos en el anuncio de Obama?"
This is the type of reality that my parents live in. A reality where stepping outside of the door could easily earn you a trip to a detention center. A reality where you are unable to travel to visit your son at his university. A reality where you have to sacrifice the little social life you have, just because you fear that one night out will result in another encounter with the police.
My parents are just two of the millions of people who would benefit from an overhaul to our current immigration laws. As I would too, given that DACA is only a temporary reprieve. But with the President willing to go at it alone on this issue, it gives me hope that both my mother and father will be able to at least experience a bit of peace in their lives. Their experiences over the years have certainly weighed them down, and while they rely on me for hope and advice I am hopeful that they can begin to rely more on the thing that brought them to the United States to begin with -- the promise of a better life.
"Le doy gracia a Dios todos los dìas, solo por que se de que tu y tus hermanos esten viviendo sus propias vidas en este gran pais"