This is an opinion piece by Pablo Barrios, a DACA recipient and community organizer for St. John's Well Child & Family Center.
I grew up in South Central Los Angeles as a dorky loner, spending my time jamming out at Ska shows and enjoying ice cold coconuts bought from street vendors on hot summer days. As a kid just trying to live a normal life, I didn't understand how crucial it was to keep my undocumented status a secret-- even from the people closest to me.
One of my most vivid memories was when I was walking home from Fremont High with my two undocumented brothers and a friend of ours who was a US citizen. At one point in the conversation, I mentioned that I was born in Mexico. In my mind, knowing where someone comes from is an essential part of any friendship, so the comment came naturally. But as I continued my story, our friend interrupted to say, "Wait, you're illegal?" I didn't yet have the confidence or the right words to say that no human can be illegal, so I simply responded with "Yeah… I guess I'm that."
The elimination of DACA would mean the end of basic human dignity for a lot of recipients like me.
Suddenly, I felt a hand hitting the side of my head. I turn to find my older brother giving me a death stare, mouthing two vital words: "SHUT. UP."
Fast forward fourteen years. I'm now an adult whose life was completely transformed by DACA, trying to come to terms with the fact that the Obama-era law protecting my status in this city where I've planted deep roots is suddenly in danger. DACA getting overturned would mean me losing access to the employer-provided health care that is essential to managing my prediabetes. DACA getting overturned would mean my DACAmented friends and family would lose their work permits, making paying for housing, food, bills, and other necessities next to impossible.
In a few words, the elimination of DACA would mean the end of basic human dignity for a lot of recipients like me.
Check out more videos from VICE:
Despite the fact that I'm apprehensive about the future of DACA, I take great pride in the fact that it has afforded me the opportunity to serve my hometown. Thanks to DACA, I've been able to work as a community organizer with St. John's Well Child & Family Center for the past three years. My work there involves advocating for the end of health disparities in our communities, often by empowering my neighbors to claim their right to health. Through St. John's, I've served many people like my mother who, up until 2015, had no access to health care because of her immigration status.
Despite the fact that I'm apprehensive about the future of DACA, I take great pride in the fact that it has afforded me the opportunity to serve my hometown.
Aside from the tangible things that DACA provides me, like a job with health care benefits, it gives me a peace of mind. Being protected by the law allows me to pursue my other passions: dancing salsa and bachata, taking photographs, and mentoring teenage males to be responsible young men.
It's moments like this that make me realize that we can never take anything we're blessed with for granted-- but also that a good life is worth fighting for.
St. John's Well Child and Family Center has been standing in solidarity with the members of our immigrant community from day one, and they have made it clear that they will continue to support me despite the senseless hatred coming from the White House. For that, I am beyond grateful. Like me, St. John's believes that all immigrants deserve the right to happiness, healthiness, and security. DACA helped provide that for people who have been woven into the fabric of this nation.
Without us, America would not be the place it is today.
In the face of the threats to DACA, I urge employers across the country to stand with their workers, and for citizens to ask their representatives to introduce legislation that supports all immigrants. Our nation will only be made stronger by rejecting xenophobia wholeheartedly through comprehensive policy solutions. It's time to come together and stand up for all the people who have made the United States their home.
Find out what you can do to fight back against the plan to end DACA right now, or support the St. John's Well Child & Family Center, a network of free and low-cost community health care clinics in and around Los Angeles serving children, teens, and adults.