By Robert Sagastume
I have lived in the United States for thirteen years as an undocumented child. I am originally from Honduras, but migrated to the United States when I was twelve years old. I was privileged enough to come here with a Visa; however, my mother, who feared to go back to our home country, decided to keep my siblings and me in the United States. She wanted to give us a better life and a better future, but her decision also led to my undocumented status. Nevertheless, I was thankful to be in a country where I was safe and where I could succeed in academic studies.
I am currently completing my graduate degree in Social Welfare with a focus in policy and non-profit management at Washington University in St. Louis. I graduated high school with honors and was offered a full-ride scholarship for the paralegal program at University of Missouri-Kansas City. When I received Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) many opportunities became available. Where I had previously been denied access to open enrollment for post-secondary education in Missouri, I was then accepted into universities. I obtained a driver license and car insurance on the first vehicle I purchased. I was able to work lawfully and travel to different states. I obtained a bank account and credit that allowed me to enroll in more courses.
Most importantly, I was given an opportunity to feel comfortable without fearing potential deportation. Without DACA, I would have not been able to advance in my life. Fortunately, I then found the love of my life. A few months after we got married, we were able to obtain a green card for myself.
I was lucky, I found a permanent solution. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many Dreamers who were protected under this executive order. When President Trump ended DACA, he put the responsibility for a permanent solution onto Congress. I am sharing my story so that others may know the many barriers and fears for people who, like me, were brought here as children and call this country their home.
Not only is finding a permanent solution for dreamers the humane thing to do, it is also the economically beneficial option. Dreamers contribute significantly to the economy in Missouri. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy provided a report that shows current state and local tax contributions by DACA immigrants. For example, Missourian’s DACA immigrants have contributed $8,430,000.
Dreamers are not just contributing economically; they are also active members of society. About 17% of DACA recipients are continuing their education and over 91% are part of the workforce. The lives of potentially 800,000 DACA recipients are counting on all of us to speak up. I hope that all those who are in spaces of power or influence speak with urgency to our legislators for a permanent solution, such as the DREAM Act, as soon as possible.