Political Climate Makes Radio Rookie's Legal Status Uncertain

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Radio Rookie Andrea Bonilla in the studio

I never followed politics before this presidential election. But now I can't help but pay attention because I worry that almost every aspect of my future depends on it.

I was 5-years-old when my parents brought me here illegally, so I grew up undocumented. When I started high school in 2012, my mom put in my application for a new program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. I got it, which means that since then, I’ve been able to work legally and can live openly, without fear of being deported.

Over this past summer, I was even able to apply for a special permit to visit my family in Ecuador for the first time in 13 years. “Seeing my baby after so many years felt healing,” my grandma said when she saw me. “It’s like being able to see my daughter.” I know my mom would have loved to see her too, but she can’t. 

I’ve always known that my family and I are immigrants but until I started the college application process I didn’t understand being legal or illegal, or what it meant to be a citizen or resident, or that I was neither.

Now, with this presidential election, and all the things that Donald Trump has said about immigrants and deportation, I feel more and more uncertain about my future.

DACA was created by President Obama and can be changed by the next president. Over 700,000 young people like me have DACA status, and we all have a lot to lose if it’s taken away. I asked immigration attorney Andrea Saenz if I should be worried. She told me, “I think that it would be really hard politically for a president to pull the rug out under that many young people, but they can certainly change the terms of the program. I think we all have to be ready for that possibility.”

I don’t know anyone who’s supporting Trump but some polls say that almost 20 percent of Hispanics plan to vote for him. I met one of those people, Javier Dutan. His family immigrated here from the same area of Ecuador as mine.

Dutan says he heavily supports Trump because of his stance on policies like the TPP and NAFTA. I asked him if he was worried that Trump would deport anyone from his family. “Well, he would deport my mom...but everyone else in my family came in legally so they wouldn't be deported.” 

He asked me my opinion of Trump. I told him, "I wouldn’t vote for him just because of his immigration policy, which is huge for me and my family." But the reality is that even though I’m 18, I can’t vote in November. 

I know there are people that will automatically hate me and my family because we came here without papers. But that’s not new. And neither are Trump and his supporters' views on immigration. They’ve just been hyped up to another level. 

No matter what happens in this election, even if DACA is taken away, as immigrants we need to hype each other up and not be ashamed to say who we are.

 

Special thanks to our partner on this project, The Opportunity Network. This is part of the NPR series A Nation Engaged.