Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
Op Ed

DACA Recipients Need Pathway to Citizenship

Nearly a decade after DACA executive order, action by Congress long overdue.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Sep 19th, 2021 10:54 am
A participant in the 2018 Women's March carries a defend DACA sign. Photo by Laura Thompson.

A participant in the 2018 Women’s March carries a defend DACA sign. File photo by Laura Thompson.

My name is Alondra Garcia, and I am a bilingual elementary school teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools, a first-generation college graduate and an active member of my community. And I am DACAmented.

When I was just 3 years old, my parents left their family and everything they knew in Morelia, Mexico, to move my younger sister and me to the United States. They did not know how to speak English or navigate our new home country, but they did know that moving us would provide more opportunities to build a better life for ourselves than our hometown could.

But despite my parents’ hopes for a better life, living here undocumented was far from easy. In addition to facing discrimination and hate, my dad had to juggle three part-time jobs and my mom had to work full time. Even so, my dad still managed to take us to school in the morning and pick us up because, for him, education was always important. My mom made sure to make time for us to be involved in extracurricular activities throughout our early education career.

Without my parents, I would not be where I am and who I am today. Their sacrifices allowed my sisters and me to get a good education and instilled strong values of education and hard work — the same things that I teach my students in school every day.

In essence, my family’s story is similar to the story of many Americans. It is a story of immigrants aspiring for something better — the so-called “American Dream.” But how “American” can one truly be if you are constantly being targeted by white supremacists and blamed for our country’s downfalls? America is the only home I can remember, and yet I feel alienated and unwelcome. It’s mentally and emotionally draining to have to educate people on our situation, to get people to understand that my family is American as any other. We deserve to be citizens just like everyone else.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program has allowed me to live a more “normal” American life: It has allowed me to get a driver’s license, go to college and become an educator in the South Side of Milwaukee. But ever since the executive order was issued for DACA in 2012, it has been under attack, and I constantly find myself being toggled around like a test subject while xenophobic politicians try to end DACA and further criminalize my family.

As an executive order, DACA was never meant to be a permanent solution for younger immigrants like me, and it does nothing to honor my parents’ sacrifices and contributions to this country. Only Congress has the power to pass a permanent pathway to citizenship, and my family and millions of other immigrant essential workers, “Dreamers,” TPS holders and their families need reform and relief now. The pandemic has made passing a clean pathway to citizenship even more urgent, as it would allow immigrant essential workers like my parents to have access to health care, encourage them to get vaccinated and help them work more safely in front-line jobs.

Congress is poised to vote on a historic reconciliation budget bill that includes over $100 billion for a pathway to citizenship for millions that Democrats in the U.S. Senate passed earlier this month. This is a historic opportunity for President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats to deliver on their overdue promise to honor the sacrifices that immigrant essential workers like me have made to keep the rest of our country safe and our economy running.

Alondra Garcia is bilingual elementary school teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools and a recipient of DACA.

OPINION: ‘We deserve to be citizens just like everyone else’: Why Congress needs to create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients was originally published by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.

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