Being the “Type A,” driven overachiever that I am, I tend to be a planner—often, to a fault. As the daughter of a Purdue grad, I was expected to have a plan for college. As an African American female, I was encouraged to have a plan for breaking the glass ceiling. And, as a citizen of the United States, I was given the privilege and the right to pursue both.
But for 800,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), 17,000 of whom live in Colorado, planning too far ahead just isn’t possible. Forced to renew their applications every two years, DACA recipients set dreams and goals with term limits—limits we don’t place on students who are citizens—limits that drown potential and choke the aspirations of students who are not citizens.
Yet, we ask 5-year-olds what they want to be when they grow up. We urge high school seniors to apply to four-year colleges and universities. And, we gauge the promise of interns and young job candidates on their ability to see the future, asking, “Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?”
While I believe tomorrow is promised to no one, that reality hits much closer to home for our DACA recipients, whose fear and anxiety has risen since President Trump’s administration announced its intent to end DACA—effectively extinguishing the beacon of hope lit by Lady Liberty’s torch, which sits high above a country built by immigrants.
That’s why more than 90 Denver principals called on Congress to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017, and why a small group of Southwest principals, representing charter, innovation and district-run schools, united to support their students and staff who are impacted by DACA.
Their collaboration—inspired by nothing more than a desire to give all of Denver’s kids a better future—motivated 11 brave individuals to speak from the heart in this “My DACA Story”. video.
While watching, I see those who are first in their families to attend college. I hear pride in the voices of those who have been given work permits. And, I get chills knowing they’re all risking the peace of mind that comes with anonymity by advocating for a temporary protection that may be stripped away altogether.
“DACA is not something permanent that I know I’ll have forever,” says one Dreamer in the video. “It took me 17 years to get something semi-permanent that they might take away.”
“One thing that’s hard for me is when people ask me about my 5- or 10-year plan,” another dreamer said. “It’s like I don’t have one. I can’t think that far today because I am thinking about what happens to me in March.”
That’s when it hits me.
As I plan for the next bullet on my resume or life milestone, thousands in Colorado can’t see past tomorrow, next month or this March, when many can no longer apply for the renewal status allowing them live, learn and work in the U.S—albeit for two years at a time. This stark reminder of my privilege in this context challenges me to confine my own hopes and dreams to this moment in time.
Suddenly, I feel claustrophobic, forced to quell the unbridled aspirations I’ve been encouraged to unleash since, well, forever.
With an exhale, I gain some peace knowing this isn’t my reality. This isn’t “My DACA Story.” I don’t personally have to rely on Congress to pass a “Clean DREAM Act” before the December recess.
I’ve chased the American dream with a certain level of expectancy, infinite in possibility and unconstrained by time limits. But for students in Southwest Denver and across Colorado, this isn’t their story.
Some say this is the moment for those who’ve been forced to dream differently. As a country, how will we define it? In two-year increments, 5-10 year plans? Or a lifetime of freedom to pursue the American dream on a pathway to citizenship?