Gaby Pacheco and Carlos Roa Explain How their Lives Have Changed with DACA
With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in the U.S. v Texas immigration executive action case next Monday, two newly-published columns from prominent Dreamer activists and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients Gaby Pacheco and Carlos Roa offer important reminders about why executive action policies are so consequential. At Univision.com, Pacheco reflects on how her DACA status has finally made it possible for her to purchase a home, pay taxes, and imagine a new future for her family. And in an op-ed at The Guardian, Roa shares his personal story and the educational and professional opportunities he has enjoyed due to DACA.
While Pacheco and Roa each benefit from the original DACA program, which is not at issue in U.S. v Texas, their experiences highlight what’s at stake for millions of other families in the U.S. Supreme Court case. The individuals and families affected by the Court’s forthcoming ruling (expected in June) are already deeply embedded in and contributing to American society. According to recent research from the Center for Migration Studies, more than 90% of DAPA-eligible individuals are parents to at least one U.S. citizen; 81% have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more; and 94% are employed.
As Pacheco and Roa’s writings remind us, getting that piece of paper that opens doors to other aspects of life and participation will be transformative for the millions of people affected.
According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “The courage, advocacy, and leadership of Gaby, Carlos, and thousands of others like them helped to shape and deliver immigration executive action policies in the first place. Now, their stories and successes offer a reminder of what’s at stake at the Supreme Court next week. We believe that the Court will reject the partisan and political lawsuit brought by Texas and other Republican states, and instead rule in favor of DAPA and expanded DACA, helping to usher in new opportunities and a new day for so many American immigrant families.”
Below, we present the reflections of Gaby Pacheco and Carlos Roa.
On Univision.com, prominent Dreamer Gaby Pacheco writes, “DACA, A Key to New Opportunities for Immigrants”:
“People from all over the world come to America with the hope and dreams of achieving success. And while success comes in many forms, in America, it is well known that, as long as you work hard, you are guaranteed an opportunity at achieving the American Dream. However, for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, even if you work harder than everyone else, your dreams are just that, dreams.
In 2012, when the immigrant youth community won DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood, Arrivals), I never thought that this temporary USCIS program would be a key that would open so many doors of opportunities for me. In 2014, for the first time in 21 years, I was able to travel outside the US. I was able to get a drivers’ license, and find a rewarding job as the program director of TheDream.US, a college success and scholarship program where I get to see hundreds of young people achieve their dream of going to college. And today, because of DACA, I was able to buy my first home.
As a child, I used to imagine what my life would be as an adult, I would go to college, become Dr. Pacheco, have a career, buy a house, and build a family of my own. I’ve worked hard to achieve those goals, sometimes working twice as hard than others. But being an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., hard work does not mean equal success. Though I graduated in the top 3% of my class, I couldn’t receive the merit scholarships I had earned. Nor was I able to apply for financial aid, grants or loans, I was on my own. I went to college as an international student, though I had studied and lived in the U.S since the third grade. Buying this home brings me closer to achieving all my life long goals.
DACA leveled the playing field for me, and, as a result, I am able to contribute more to the U.S. economy. As a woman, and an immigrant, I feel proud when I do my taxes. Yes, I sometimes grumble when I see how much of my hard earned money goes toward the IRS, but I am reminded and thankful that this money is going to pay for the social security benefits of our country’s rapidly retiring baby boomers, toward our young people’s education, and other important social programs. My heart warms at the thought of painting my new home walls with my husband. I will set roots in this new home with my future children. They will run around the house, and they will most likely color the walls with Sharpie markers, the same walls my husband and I spent a few years back painting.
One-sixth of all economic activity in the United States is made up by the housing industry. You don’t have to be an economist to understand that immigrants buying homes, paying taxes, and being successful are good for the economy. After the housing market took a hit during the Great Recession, neighborhoods began to deteriorate as foreclosed homes sat empty without any buyers. According to Pew, unauthorized immigrants make up more than five percent of the U.S. labor force. This works force generates nearly $12 billion each year in state and local tax revenue. Immigrants don’t just build homes; they live in them too. Perhaps, if states like Texas and Florida wanted to accelerate the housing recovery or help their state increase the number of people who can buy houses, they should allow the DACA extension and DAPA programs to move forward. A recent report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that if the Supreme Court unfreezes the immigration executive action policies, state and local tax coffers would increase by an additional $805 million each year.
While the benefits I and more than 700,000 people with DACA have been given are temporary and partial, they have been crucial to our personal and community development. I look forward to seeing the Supreme Court side with the American people and the U.S.’s best interest by allowing the expansion of DACA and the parents of U.S. citizen and resident children to apply for these programs. Furthermore, we look to the leaders of this nation to put divisive politics aside and once and for all see the tremendous economic gains of bringing 11 million immigrants into the light.”
Writing at The Guardian, fellow Dreamer activist Carlos Roa: “I am a ‘Dreamer’. I walked 1,500 miles for the right to stay in America”:
“It’s very hard to be undocumented in America. My family is originally from Caracas, Venezuela. My family didn’t have papers when we arrived in New York in 1989 – but we thought we’d be getting them soon. My grandfather, a US citizen for more than 30 years, petitioned for my father to become a US permanent resident that year. But only three months into the process, he passed away unexpectedly. That tragedy, combined with other circumstances, prevented my family from adjusting our immigration status.
Growing up, I always knew that we were undocumented. My parents never really hid the truth about our immigration status. Even though we were only children, it was easy for us to see how fearful my parents were about police interaction and routine traffic stops. I feared my parents would be locked up and deported. I still remember one time when my mom was driving me to elementary school and was pulled over because of a problem with our license plate. I could sense her fear and anxiety. It is one of several memories that shaped my understanding about what our undocumented status meant.
The attacks of 9/11 happened during my freshman year of high school. As a consequence, the potential for immigration reform evaporated. As my graduation approached I felt increasingly anxious. I even developed Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which I think was a result of living in constant fear. I knew that lacking papers meant that I might never realize my dream of becoming an architect. To make matters worse, my mother died of cancer 10 months after I graduated high school in 2005.
We were devastated and our economic woes kept worsening. I had no other alternative but to start working full-time in construction management in Miami to help support my family. However, that didn’t last long and I was left without a job in late 2007 because of the recession.
I had no way to adjust my immigration status or to convince this country that I wanted to belong and pursue my dreams. At the same time I had to sit and watch as opportunistic and racist media pundits and politicians demonized and scapegoated immigrants like me.
I got to the point where I couldn’t keep silent any more. I decided to finally speak out and get involved – regardless of my immigration status or the possibility of being deported. Despite her illness, my mother’s will to live and raise us was so great that it left a deep impression on me to fight for my dreams.
As a result, I got involved in the Dreamer movement, which was barely starting and had little national attention. Working with other courageous youth facing similar issues, I understood that education and our active involvement in politics were the main drivers that would protect us. Activism ¬¬¬would also determine our success as immigrants.
In 2010, I decided to embark on a life-changing journey: walking with three other activists from Miami, Florida, to Washington DC on a 1,500-mile walk that we called The Trail of Dreams. Our objective was to call attention to mass deportations nationwide and to demand an executive order halting the deportations of Dreamers – the walk served as catalyst for the movement of that same name.
In 2012, the collective efforts by undocumented youth nationwide forced President Obama to order an executive action known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. As a result, with my work permit at hand through Daca, I was able to transfer to the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2013 as a president scholar to finish my bachelor’s degree in architecture. I am finally set to graduate this upcoming May. My dream is within reach.
Even though my parents won’t be able to see me graduate, having lost both of them to cancer – my father died last year – I am very proud of the values they instilled in me. Their intellect, determination and strength instilled a deep sense of moral conviction and sharpened my focus to address the greatest of our societal challenges.
Despite characters such as Donald Trump, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz threatening to take away my temporary relief status from deportation and my ability to work, I know that hundreds of thousands of young people like me remain committed to fighting back against the incendiary and ignorant rhetoric.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my journey and through my studies, it is that there is great power and resiliency in us. Sometimes we have power than we even know.”