Depression, anxiety, frustration: This was my reality as an undocumented young woman living in the United States. For many years the love and support of my family was the only thing that sustained me. In 2012, my life changed with the implementation of the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). A weight was lifted off my shoulders when I learned I would be able to live a normal life. I immediately began to daydream as I had when I was a little girl, optimistic about my new life in the U.S. My new DACA status would allow me to finally be able to come out of the shadows — not only to survive, but to thrive.
My new-found joy and excitement and that of many others like me sparked attacks from local politicians. In Arizona, the state in which I grew up and call home, a ban on licenses was enacted, and a lawsuit against education access for DACA program recipients immediately followed. These attacks compelled me to join a local organization and become a community organizer. As I integrated myself into the immigrant youth movement, I also continued to live my personal life. The fight for justice brought me many things — confidence, knowledge and a new perspective on life. But most importantly, it brought me love.
In July of 2015, my son was born, instantly bringing light into the world. I had carried him for nine months with mixed emotions of hope and fear. I shared in some of the same fears of most expectant mothers, but I also bore worries in my heart that not many did. I thought about how the world would welcome the child of a Dreamer. I cried when I played out all of the what-if scenarios in my head. What if one day they ended DACA and tried to deport me? The stress was relentless, but I made it through and found ease at the first sight of my baby's smile.
The last two years have been like nothing I’ve ever experienced. There have been many ups and downs on the roller coaster of motherhood. I remember my heart filling with joy when Iker said “Mamma” for the first time, and I also remember the worry and frustration I felt as he started to fall behind and was diagnosed with a speech delay. But my son Iker and I have an indescribable bond. Still, in the back of my mind the uncertainty about what could happen to our small family has always remained. Recently my concerns have been resurrected. DACA recipients have once again become the subjects in a political game after President Trump ended the program in September. Our lives are now in the hands of a Congress whose extreme bipartisanship could threaten our livelihood if a permanent solution is not reached soon.
I now have to answer and plan for the questions and concerns constantly swirling around my head. There are more than 800,000 DACA youth across the country who face the same complicated questions, many of them also parents. Ending DACA means ending the livelihood of real people. It means homes lost, families living in fear and in hunger. It means children like Iker crying as they are torn from the arms of their mothers.
Congress has the opportunity to pass a permanent legislative solution to protect Dreamers by ensuring a DREAM provision is added on to the must-pass spending bill in the upcoming weeks. The deadline to pass this new spending package is Jan. 19. Negotiations have been held and shared with the public. I strongly believe we cannot justify protection of one group of marginalized people while simultaneously creating policy that will further criminalize and separate families. Ending chain migration, the lottery system, TPS and further militarizing the border would create a multitude of problems for the country and our immigrant communities.
Korina Iribe Romo is an Arizona State University graduate student, DACA recipient and community organizer. She is advocacy director at the student organization Undocumented Students for Education Equity.