DACA Has Allowed Me to Pursue Education, But We Need A Permanent Solution Now

by American Immigration Council Staff

My name is Hali Calzadillas-Andujo and I’m originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. I first came to the United States with my mother and siblings when I was eight years old. I didn’t even know what it meant, really, except that I was rejoining my father. I came to Santa Fe, New Mexico and have been here ever since.

Growing up here was difficult. I saw my parents working hard. I worked in jobs that were physically exhausting in order to help my family. That’s what I thought my future was going to be. Neither of my parents finished elementary school, and my siblings didn’t finish high school. I didn’t see myself finishing high school. I thought I was always going to be working these jobs and living in uncertainty.

When I was in high school, I remember the teachers singling me out and treating me differently because of my status. They didn’t bother talking to me about college or scholarships; I didn’t have any access to that information.

Even when the government created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative in 2012, I didn’t think it was for me. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. It seemed like it was a program for people who were more educated or had more money than my family did.

I got DACA when I was 19 years old. My first job after I received the work permit was back at my high school, tutoring other students. I finally started to see college as a real possibility, and that I deserved those things. I felt like I had a place here and belonged.

The path after DACA wasn’t all easy. I saved money for two years to pay for tuition for college, because even though I should have been eligible for financial aid, my university wouldn’t process my application due to my immigration status. Eventually I was able to get a degree and better-paying jobs. I became a Department of Justice-accredited representative. Now I represent other immigrants in applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

But DACA can be like a golden cage.

It has given me a lot of opportunities. I went to college and am pursuing a master’s in education to go into school administration. I’ve travelled throughout the United States—all things I never thought I could do before. But I also can’t leave. I haven’t seen my parents in over three years since they moved back to Mexico.

After nine years of DACA, we need to move forward with a path to citizenship for myself and for the millions of other immigrants like me living in the United States.

This post originally appeared on Immigration Impact. Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

American Immigration Council Staff Our mission is to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration. Through its research and analysis, we provide policymakers, the media, and the general public with accurate information about the role of immigrants and immigration policy on U.S. society. Our reports and materials are widely disseminated and relied upon by press and policy makers. Our staff regularly serves as experts to leaders on Capitol Hill, opinion-makers and the media. Formed in 2003, we are a non-partisan organization that neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.