Op-Ed: We all need to speak up now and protect DACA students

Evelyn Arredondo Ramirez is the Director of Communications at the GW Mexican Student Association and a Cisneros scholar.

It was in the summer of 2010 when my family became smaller. I grew up as an only child for most of my childhood until my cousin Alex, who I consider my older brother, came to the United States at the age of nine. Up to that point, my only family was my mother. All of her family lived in Mexico while we lived in California. Having someone, like my brother, to play with was every only child’s dream. Alex and I played soccer together – our favorite bonding game – and afterwards we would eat Hot Cheetos with extra lime. Our stomachs would protest later on, but at that moment we bonded over these small moments. He was my older brother and just like any little sister, I looked up to him.

Although he struggled to learn English, he went to school and was determined to learn. He started working as soon as he started his freshman year in high school. In order to make money to contribute to the household, he started working as a busboy. My brother worked long hours, picking up plates, bringing orders and was on his feet for more than eight hours at a time. During the summer, he would go to the fields to pick whichever fruit or vegetable was in season. He would wake up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to get ready and hitch a carpool to the fields in the Central Valley. He contributed to feeding America like many immigrants do in California. He did all of this, not just for himself, but also for his family. He knew the bills needed to be paid and he contributed each month. He did not slack off, even when exhausted and tired from working long hours.

He taught me that you are nothing without perseverance, dedication and determination. He taught me to love family because they will never leave your side. Life will sometimes feel like you are being cleated in the shins, but you can and will overcome it.

However, this was not enough to keep U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from deporting him. ICE did not care about his incredible ability to speak English and Spanish, the pain they would bring to the family, the feeling of not being able to return home, the feeling that you do not belong in your motherland because that is no longer home for you. ICE only cared about a single piece of paper that distinguished him as a permanent resident and citizen. Sadly, my brother did not have this. My brother only had his pride of being able to live in the United States in his heart.

If the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program had come in two years earlier, my brother would have been able to qualify and gain temporary protection while continuing his studies. If DACA had existed, my family would not have shrunk again to only my immediate family in California. My family would not have gone through the pain of seeing my brother get deported.

I urge everyone at GW to speak up. DACAmented citizens are human beings, just like us. The only difference is legal status. We are the land of opportunity and freedom. We boast this yet we do not give these young adults their own chance at this opportunity. I am ashamed today. I do not want people to feel what I felt when I lost my big brother. When U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that DACA is officially being rescinded, he used the term “illegal aliens” to define people that are hard workers. But no one is illegal, they are undocumented immigrants. Get it right. We should stand up to this government and demand them not to do this. We, as a country, owe this to our “Dreamers.” Let the “Dreamers” get their own chance at the American Dream.

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