Social Justice

DREAMer and College Student Nayelli Speaks Out on Life After DACA and the Future of DACA Activism

After the Trump Administration announced its decision on DACA, a group of college students and faculty met in Henderson to discuss how to advocate for student DREAMers in Nevada’s colleges. Afterwards, we spoke with one of these student DREAMers about her experience growing up here. She explains how she made it to college, and how she will fight to stay in the one place she calls home.

{Note: Nayelli provided her first name when she sat down with us to share her story. Due to post-DACA safety concerns, she declined to list her last name or go on camera.}

“We were at risk of being deported. We were scared.”
– Nayelli, Henderson

Like many DREAMers, Nayelli was brought to the U.S. as a three-year old child. From there on, she constantly had to watch her back. “Ever since I was a little girl, my parents told us we needed to be careful,” Nayelli said. “We were at risk of being deported. We were scared.”

When Nayelli was a sophomore in high school, her father learned of a new program that would allow her to pursue her dreams and live some kind of normal life. That program was DACA, the executive action then President Barack Obama announced in 2012 to provide deportation relief and work permits to DREAMers like Nayelli.

Once Nayelli applied, she learned first-hand of the many hoops immigrants must jump through just to be allowed to stay. “It was a hard process to go through. Because of that doubt they have in you, they have to check to make sure you’re a good person,” Nayelli explained. “It was intense.”

The week that changed everything

Nayelli excelled in her classes and continued jumping through all the right hoops in order to become the first in her family to attend college. And yet, despite all her hard work, Nayelli feels more vulnerable than ever. When the Trump Administration announced its plan to end DACA, Nayelli suddenly had to worry about all her hard work being negated by the stroke of Donald Trump’s pen.

“My parents are incredibly sad. They were watching the news all day [on September 5],” Nayelli told us. “They’re scared for me, and for themselves as well. The government doesn’t just have my information, but my parents’ as well.”

“I want to let other DACAmented students know that they’re not alone.”
– Nayelli

With so much now at risk for Nayelli, why is she speaking out now? She talked about her younger sister as she explained the need to encourage other DREAMers and immigrant families to keep hope alive. “I have a younger sister. She looks up to me. I want to be strong for my family. […] We have to stay strong. We have to unite, do something about this.”

So what can they do? “Speak out on DACA. Let everyone know that […] this affects many people,” Nayelli responded. “It was comforting to know DACA backed me up. Taking it away [from DREAMers] is like taking a comfort blanket away from a baby.”

“We need to get rid of these dehumanizing thoughts.”
– Nayelli

Another reason Nayelli cited for coming forward was to debunk the fake news the White House and its “alt-right” allies are peddling to justify Trump’s decision to end DACA. “We help the economy. We pay taxes. We contribute to the community,” Nayelli said. “We want to advocate for our rights. We need to get rid of these dehumanizing thoughts.”

As Congress begins to debate the DREAM Act and other possible legislative fixes for DACA recipients, Nayelli hopes they will remember who will be affected by their action (or lack, thereof). “We’re all humans. As DACA-mented students, our parents brought us here to get a better future.” Now, it’s up to our elected lawmakers to decide whether these young aspiring Americans can finally have that better future.

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