Faces of Immigration

Afraid, but not ashamed

Before applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), Brandon, a 20-year-old NMSU student, felt like he was hidden from the world because of his immigration status in the United States.

His mother crossed the US-Mexico border when he was a two-year-old baby. She came with nothing more than a dream to provide a better future for her family.  The United States is all Brandon has ever known. The U.S. is his home and he doesn’t remember anything about Mexico, his country of origin.

Brandon grew up in poverty and because of his immigration status he didn’t qualify for  medical insurance or any other social benefits. At a young age, he had to work in the fields, enduring long hours under the sun to make an income.

Brandon speaks to his class about an architecture project. (Photo by Cristal Corrales/Kokopelli)

“I started working in the fields when I was nine years old, picking onions, chile, nuts or whatever was in season,” Brandon said. “The pay wasn’t very good, but at the time it didn’t matter to me. A job was a job.”

With all the obstacles he faced, his dream of attending college to become an architect seemed impossible.

However, in 2016 his life changed. The Obama administration established DACA in June 2012, which granted immigrants like Brandon a renewable two-year deference from deportation and a two-year work permit.

Brandon applied after high school graduation and received DACA at the age of 17. He no longer felt trapped, and because of DACA he was able to enroll in college and apply for jobs. With the help of his counselors, Brandon got accepted into the Doña Ana Community College and was awarded private scholarships to continue his studies. His first job was as a lifeguard, and he later applied as a math tutor in his college.  When all seemed well, Brandon was hit with some hard news.

On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump called for an end to DACA, a program that protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The president asked Congress to find an alternative solution within six months.

“Now that it is officially terminated my motivation is gone. It’s a little bit hard to concentrate on my studies. I feel like I can just drop out,” said Brandon.

The United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) is no longer accepting new applications for DACA. Current DACA recipients had until Oct. 5 to renew their two-year work permits. According to the Department of Homeland Security, 112,000 of the 154,000 immigrants eligible for renewals had applied as of Oct. 4.

 

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