As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments surrounding President Obama’s executive orders on immigration, known as expanded DACA (DACA+) and DAPA, Define American will be sharing the stories of undocumented immigrants who would either be able to seek temporary deportation relief under one of the two programs currently frozen by the court system, and those who are afforded the same protections under DACA. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children limited benefits including temporary deportation relief and work authorization. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) grants the same benefits to the parents of U.S. citizens. Neither are a pathway to citizenship. The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on DACA+ and DAPA on April 18, with a decision expected sometime in June. With a lack of action in Congress, the executive orders are currently the only national immigration efforts in motion.
Montserrat Vargas, 34, arrived in 2004 from Guadalajara, Mexico. She lived in Washington, D.C. for one year, lived in Florida for another and has been living in Arizona since. She currently lives in Mesa, AZ. She came to the USA to seek safety and better economic opportunities. She was specifically concerned about the amount of gun violence in Mexico, as her father was randomly assaulted by a man on the streets, and multiple family members have been robbed while taking public transportation. She describes living in fear of retribution if she reported the crimes. She met her husband, who is also undocumented, in the United States and she has a 7-year-old son who was born in the United States. She remarks that her son has many great places to play sports for free here, which isn’t the case in Mexico. English is her second language, but she is proud of the classes and progress she has made so far in learning English, and about her life here. She is looking for better jobs, and feels that DAPA would allow her to have more options. “I love living in the USA because this is the best country to find opportunities,” she says.
What would a decision in favor of DACA+/DAPA mean for your life?
I came to this country looking for better opportunities for myself and my children. To me, DAPA has been that opportunity I have been longing for. I have been waiting for something like this for a very long time. For example, DAPA signifies that I can have an almost “normal” life with a valid identification to work in this country. I don’t have to remain in the shadows.
What would a decision against DACA+/DAPA mean for your life?
This means I would continue to live in fear. It means every time I leave my house to pick up my son I will not know if I will return home safe. It would mean not having the ability to obtain employment or find ways to contribute to society. It means having to explain to my son that at any moment his parents may no longer be around simply because the country he was born in does not allow his parents to live here.
It means not having the ability to qualify or even apply for health insurance continuing to affect my health and well being. Beyond all this, it also means that all my efforts to be an exceptional human being and, contribute positively to this country haves not been enough. It would mean that the fight of great activists, families and my own grain of sand have been looked over.
What do you want other Americans to know about what’s it’s like to be undocumented in the U.S.?
I would like them to know that being undocumented in this country means to live a life in terror. It’s not having an identity, it’s fighting and fighting for your dreams without having the certainty that one day they will manifest. I would also like them to know that we are not rapists, drug traffickers or people with bad morals. There are plenty of us that want to show that we are much more than that.
What is the first thing you’d do if you received DACA+/DAPA?
The first thing I would do would be to look for a job that allows me and my son to have a better quality of life. I would eventually want to buy a house and continue growing in all aspects in this country to which I am so grateful to.