A Dreamer speaks out
By Nicolas Medina
Angel Barragan, a Spanish teacher at Summit Public School: Rainier in San Jose, gave his perspective on being a Dreamer and the Trump Administration’s policy of ending DACA. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is a program for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before they were 16 to work, go to school and obtain a driver’s license legally. People who have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors cannot qualify to be part of DACA.
- Where is your family from and why did they choose to move to the United States?
“My family came to the U.S. in search of a better life. I used to live in a small town in Mexico. Our house didn’t have running water or a roof, so my parents came here first and later brought us.”
- How old were you when you came into the United States?
“I was 10 years old when I came to the U.S.”
- What was it like growing up as a Dreamer?
“Growing up as a Dreamer was hard. We were pretty low income, and we had to work hard in order to accomplish anything that we wanted. It got harder the older that I got, and [I] began to notice the different privileges my friends had and I was lacking.”
- Was being a Dreamer difficult compared to other kids growing up?
“It was very difficult, in ways hard to explain – in ways that I felt very different than the people around me. I wanted to be able to have a regular life like everyone else did, but I couldn’t. I lived in an immigrant home where there were six to seven people living at a time. I was sharing a room with my brother and my parents and it was very abnormal, but that’s what I thought was normal. I think it became harder once I started becoming older and realizing I couldn’t do the same thing that my peers kept doing. My best friends were applying for jobs and were getting driver’s licenses, and I couldn’t do that legally. It was really hard.”
- How was applying to college as a Dreamer?
“I went to a Summit school. I went to the first Summit School, Summit Prep, and I was told that I was going to be able to apply to schools and that everything is going to be fine. They told me not [to] worry about the money and when I applied to schools, I applied to private schools because I thought they were going to be able to help me the most.” Mr. Barragan went on to add that even though he wanted to go to private schools, he had no financial aid so he could not afford to attend. He thought he had to give up on his dream of going to college, but he found out some good news.“I got accepted to San Francisco State, and I was able to get a [full-ride] scholarship. I was one of the lucky ones that [were] able to put that together. All the other Dreamers that I knew were applying to schools at the same time, [with] the same circumstances, [but] were not able to make it, so it was very hard and very sad at the same time and it was a lot of work.”
- What do you think about President Trump’s position that illegal immigrants are stealing American jobs, resources, education, healthcare and are increasing the crime rate?
“Well, first we don’t want to use the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or ‘illegal’ in general. There are two reasons why. We don’t want to say that any human being is illegal, and, second of all, that term has been used historically to take away the humanity of people when they are talking about things. For example, if somebody says that we rounded up a bunch of illegals and we deported them, it sounds very different from saying we rounded up people and we took them out of here. So we want to say ‘undocumented’ instead when we get the opportunity to do that, or even ‘immigrant’. I think that’s coming from a lot of misinformation on what immigrants are doing here in the U.S., especially dreamers. Anybody who has Deferred Action, anybody who is in the Deferred Action Program or were in the Deferred Action Program doesn’t have any felonies, doesn’t have any crimes; if they had any, they wouldn’t be able to apply for that program in general. All of them are educated or getting educated or during the process of finding a way of getting educated, and they are contributing members of society because they need to pay taxes, and they are not even able to benefit from a lot of the things they are paying for, which I think is something people don’t understand. People think that anybody can just apply for Deferred Action, anybody can just apply to these programs and that we are benefiting in a way other people can’t. The other misinformation comes from just the way that people think that you can just apply for citizenship in general and people are assuming that if you had Deferred Action for five years why can’t you just become a citizen, why don’t you just apply for it, and the truth is there isn’t a way to do that yet. So when our current president is continuing to misinform the American public and push forward that agenda, that is hurtful for our communities. It’s something that is really upsetting to me in general, more from my students that are starting to grow up, us undocumented and Dreamers in our society, and from myself because I have already been through it. I went to college, I went through the job application, I went through applying for DACA, I went through a lot of racist things happening to me in general and in different classrooms, but I feel a lot for my students who are about to embark on this journey and this misinformation that has been sent out to them, for others to make them think that they are criminals or anything else when in reality they are just American. They grew up here, they don’t know any other country other than the U.S. and they don’t plan on going anywhere, so when the president is saying that stuff it’s just hurtful and in general it is very dis-empowering I guess, it’s really hard to know as an educator what I should do to support my kids.”
- The Trump Administration has stopped accepting new recipients to DACA. What do you think President Trump will do next?
“He stopped receiving new recipients, but he also ended the program in general, so that means when my Deferred Action status ends I won’t be able to renew it, that means I won’t be able to continue working, that means I won’t be able to continue teaching, that means I potentially won’t be able to stay here in the U.S. and the scariest part is that in applying for Deferred Action Program a lot of us gave out information to the government and that means that if the immigration services wanted to locate us and do something, they will be able to find us pretty easily because they have all of our information already. In California it might be a little different, we have a lot of support in California, but you never know. In terms what he is going to do next, I don’t know, he is very unpredictable. This one was predictable, we knew this one was coming for a long time, we were hoping it wasn’t, but we prepared the best we could. I don’t know if he is going to do anything about immigration in general to try to help people out and sort of put it on Congress for them to figure it out. So I don’t think I can tell you what he is going to do next. I can tell you that people are really scared that he is going to take it a step further and actually try to, like not just end the program but like go a step farther and end the people currently being protected right now.”
- How has DACA affected your ability to work?
“Before I had DACA I wasn’t able to work, I was going to school as a full-time student in college until my junior year and it was very hard, I couldn’t call my family, I didn’t have an income. After DACA came in, I felt more empowered to go out and to be a contributing member of society in whichever way I could, so I was able to work, I was able to help my family and help out myself and that’s the whole reason why I was able to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. So DACA gave me an opportunity to be able to pursue my dreams. Now that DACA is ending I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. I don’t know what I’m going to do. There currently isn’t a way to fix my status, so I’m not sure, in March of 2019 when my status ends if I will be able to continue teaching or if I’m going to have to find something else to do or if I will even be able to stay in the country.”
- Do you think President Trump should leave the DACA Executive Action as it is or should Congress pass a permanent resolution?
“We would love for a permanent resolution to come up, unfortunately President Trump already took Deferred Action away. I think it is very unlikely they will put it back in place. I actually wouldn’t mind if it was back in place, but ideally we want Congress to do something for a permanent solution. Deferred Action goes by every two years; you have to renew it, and it’s really expensive, and it’s an Executive Order you know, any president can take it away at any moment, so it’s really uneasy about how we can keep ourselves and our family safe. Ideally we would like Congress to do something.”
- Is there anything else that I should know?
“No, I think the only part that I really want other students to know is the importance of making sure we are throwing out the correct information about what Deferred Action is and how people are being affected by it. Deferred Action is for people who came here as children, they grew up in America, they grew up in the United States, this is what they know like everybody else and they want to be here and they want to contribute to society. A lot of the misinformation that has been thrown out there is saying they are stealing jobs, that they are benefiting from stuff that other people are not getting, that taxpayers are paying our way through and those things aren’t true at all. In reality anybody that’s in Deferred Action wants to be here and that’s why they apply for that status, while knowing that it’s not a path to citizenship, but it’s a path to be able to work and to pay taxes and to be part of the community in general. So I think that’s what I want people to know and what I want you to bring a lot of light to some of the misinformation that’s been thrown out there, there isn’t a path to citizenship, there isn’t a way for us to fix the situation and this was the best shot for us right now to be able to live normal lives, so hopefully we can do that a little better.”