The United States has more than one million immigrants who arrive each year from a variety of backgrounds, countries and traditions, making this place the fusion of diversity that many of us proudly call home. Immigrants are a special asset to this country, and I am thankful to be one of them.
I am a DREAMer because my family moved to the United States from Brazil when I was just 5 years old. Most of us DREAMers arrived in the country before turning 16 and have lived here for more than 20 years. Our birth countries are merely a shadow of our identity.
DREAMers help maintain the American economy. Those who have obtained DACA (Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals) are able to be health care providers, social workers, teachers and successful business owners. We pay rent or mortgages that benefit the growth of our economy. In Florida, DACA recipients contribute around $165.5 million in federal taxes and $72.5 million in state taxes. But DACA alone is not enough.
For many DREAMers, not having permanent protection through citizenship in the United States feels like trekking down a never-ending desert road. A quality life is not sustainable in harsh conditions of continuous threats to terminate DACA, our only source of reprieve.
Growing up in Florida, my parents had to get under-the-table jobs to support my family. My mom cleaned houses and was a part-time cashier at a local supermarket. My dad went from being a doctor to a delivery man at a grocery store downtown. We became private people and lived in constant fear. A grueling pressure that no child should have to endure.
The only thing I could control was my attitude toward my circumstance. I served, helped and loved others deeply even though it felt jarring not having the same opportunities as my American-born citizen friends.
Being a young immigrant in this nation, I found it difficult to navigate through many obstacles at an early age: being undocumented while assimilating to American culture, learning a new language and having limited access to medical services. With the help of TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college and career success program for immigrant youth, I now have the opportunity to attend college in my home state of Florida, and work toward my dream of completing my bachelor’s and then pursuing my master’s. Yet, employment authorization, purchasing a car and driving legally are dreams I still have in adulthood that I unfortunately still cannot achieve.
I am one of the thousands of applicants whose DACA application is currently frozen from being processed or approved since a court ruling on July 17 declared this initiative unlawful.
Many of us DREAMers, who rightfully qualify and love this country, were depending on receiving approval to get stable jobs and to continue fulfilling our financial obligations. We DREAMers were depending on approval for a chance at living a dignified life.
DACA would provide me protection from deportation, yet it comes with a plethora of conditions, including a costly renewal every two years. Though I am grateful for its existence, it is time for a more stable pathway.
Following the recent court ruling from a federal judge in Texas, the future of DACA is uncertain. It is now up to Congress to provide permanent protections for DREAMers. I want to remind legislators of the sonnet written by American poet Emma Lazarus in 1883. Her words were cast on a bronze plaque mounted inside the lower level of the Statue of Liberty. The New Colossus states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
As a country that takes pride in being the land of the free and home of the brave, I ask those in Congress to stand true to this promise which is meant for all people, including DREAMers. I grew up singing those words every day in my Florida school classrooms. It is time for a permanent pathway to citizenship that proves those words true.
Tatiana Faria is a Florida DREAMer and a TheDream.US scholar.