BORN: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
STATUS: Received DACA at age 15 or 16 (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
FAMILY: Mother, father, sister (six years younger, born a U.S. citizen), brother (10 years younger, born a U.S. citizen)
MAJOR: Communications and Public Relations with a Spanish minor
B. and her parents came to the United States when she was just a year and a half old, heading first to California before settling in Milwaukee where they had family. Her father worked at a factory, while her mother stayed home. Both are undocumented and are not yet eligible to apply for residency. However, they are hoping her mother’s sister might be the key to getting their residency approved someday.
Even having lived in the United States most of her life, B. often felt a bit set apart from her peers. With Spanish as her first language and speaking English with a traces of an accent, she often noticed differences from classmates, which became even more pronounced as others would travel and go on vacations while she and her family stayed rooted in one spot.
Prior to getting DACA and the work permit and social security number that went with it, B. started working at age 13. Since then, she’s held several jobs and now is working at a TV station, doing the work that she envisions as a career. Already in her first year at Stritch, B. secured an internship that will help pave her future. Through her work, she expects to shed light on the lives of the Hispanic population, particularly teens with DACA.
The difference DACA can make
“So, actually, when I got my DACA I decided to leave my current job and start using my social security number. Then I started working at Menard’s. So from there, I got my internship. I’m only a freshman, but I got my internship on TV, plus I’m working at a bank. I feel like I’ve done a lot of productive things knowing I have the legal status, because I feel like any day I could get it taken away, so I have to make the most of opportunities when possible.”
How long can people count on DACA?
“We have a social security number, so we can work, we can go to school, but we cannot apply to FAFSA, we cannot apply for loans, we cannot apply for grants, and we can only apply for scholarships that do not require you to be a legal citizen or resident. What if I didn’t have DACA status? Would I have gone to school? What would I have been doing? I can’t picture myself without it. Not now because I gained all these opportunities, all these things; what am I going to do when I don’t have it? It’s hard.”
DACA expands boundaries, with limitations
“So we’re not considered citizens, residents or nothing. We’re just permanent legal status. So it’s not the same as being a citizen, because I can’t travel. If I travel out of the country it has to be either for work or school and I have to ask six months in advance. So let’s say I wanted to go to Europe. I can only do that if it’s a study abroad program. But I have to say the day I leave and the day I come back. If I come back later, I can’t come in. It has to be that day I say I’m going to come back in. So it’s restricted.”
And DACA renewal requires best behavior
“Mine expires in September. And I have to apply within 90 days. And if you don’t apply within 90 days, you’re probably not going to get it again. Or maybe you have it but then you go in jail because you had drugs on you; if you apply again, you’ll probably not get it. You have to be on that clean record.”
Always a deadline to benefits
“So I renewed my license Tuesday because it was my birthday; but I only have it from now until September. So it’s not like everyone else. As for my work, I only have that until September, too. If DACA doesn’t get renewed I have to stop working. So you cannot be comfortable because it’s like, well I’m going to get this job but I hope I don’t have to stop working if I don’t get it again. Especially with everything going on now, it’s like I don’t know what’s going to happen after this. It’s scary.”
Stritch’s financial assistance makes a difference
“I have two cousins who attend here, both from DACA, and both encouraged me to come here because Stritch has a very good scholarship program for us, unlike other schools. Public schools don’t offer us anything and we don’t get FAFSA, so everything is out of your pocket or from a scholarship you could apply to. And both my cousins attend here so they said you should try coming over here. They helped with that a lot and I ended up here.”
Vision for the future
“Oh, I love the TV. Having this internships has definitely made up my mind. This is where I want to be. I’ve taken modeling classes, acting classes, so then I was like this is something I can get into. I always told my parents, ‘I’m going to be on TV, I’m going to be a reporter, I’m going to be a host.’ At first my mom was like, ‘Why do you want that? Why can’t you be a doctor or a teacher?’ And I told her you know there is more careers than just those, right? Now that I have my internship, she’s crying all the time, she’s like, ‘Oh, I’m so proud of you.’ Now that I’m there, I get to do everything. I can be a host, I get to be a reporter, I work for a radio, I’ve done interviews. I sometimes cannot do much because I have school and I work, so it kind of stops me a little bit. But I’m getting that feel for everything. And I told them, this is what I want to do, I definitely know, probably at a Spanish channel. I’ve been looking into Univision, the big channel. I want to get an internship there.”
Issues that will be of greatest interest
“Obviously, for me, it’s the Hispanic population. I started my own blog. It was just about my story with DACA students, how it is to live under that. So I feel like my ideas would be more on undocumented people because obviously I come from that, I know what it is, especially as a teenager, I know other what other kids probably could feel.”