On Thursday morning, the US Supreme Court announced in a 5-4 decision that the Trump administration could not end the program that protects 644,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation. The ruling is another recent blow to President Trump, who stated in 2017 that he would move to terminate the executive order put in place by former President Obama. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA, gives protection to children who were brought to the country illegally from deportation.
Guillermo Vargas Andres is a 32-year-old immigrant from Puebla, Mexico who has lived in North Carolina since he was 14 when he immigrated to the United States with his family. He has lived in Greensboro for the last five years. He and his brother Jonathan first applied and successfully received protection under DACA in 2012 when Andres was 24. The program in its current state does not provide a path to citizenship but does allow recipients to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit. Triad City Beat’s associate editor, Sayaka Matsuoka, spoke with Andres, who currently works at a hospital in Winston-Salem, on Thursday about his feelings on the day’s ruling.
It was around 10-ish, maybe 10:30 maybe. I was actually doing homework. I knew that the ruling was supposed to come sometime this week as late as Thursday. I’ve been pretty busy with work and schoolwork that I did not have time to be checking the news. But because we are on a group message with Siembra and I started seeing that they started getting a whole lot of messages…. I saw that someone had said something like, “Have you heard the news?” and, “Is this really true?” and then I saw that the Supreme Court had ruled against Trump decision of getting rid of DACA, which is great news. I felt relieved in a way. This is a small victory but it’s not the end goal, but at least for right now, I don’t have to worry if I’m going to get kicked out in six months.
The now president has always been a threat to us and not just us, but pretty much every other minority. We’ve always been attacked by his administration, primarily immigrants. It’s always been super stressful…. Because of the certain situation that’s happening, my lawyers have been advising me to renew earlier even though I still have time left. That way at least my application is already in because we also didn’t know what would be the end result. Let’s say it’s the end of DACA, we didn’t know what would be the restrictions. If he was going to let us stay for the rest of our period or if he’ll just give us 60 days to get us kicked out of the country…. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years so that’s been pretty stressful.
This has been my home since I was 14. All I know is back home my motherland, Mexico, and then now North Carolina. I consider this my home because I’ve been living here longer than I lived in Mexico. My family came for financial reasons. Most immigrants come here for a better life. They describe us as “dreamers,” but the original dreamers are not us. We’re just the results from it; the dreamers were my parents. They’re the ones that made the sacrifice to come in here and risk it all to make a better life for their children. That’s why I’m a nurse right now, they wanted a better life for me.
I did my associates degree in nursing in Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown. DACA recipients are not able to get in-state tuition on a four-year university. That’s actually the reason why I went with an associates degree at first, I couldn’t afford to go to a four-year school. So it has taken me a while to finish my BSN. I will have to pay three times as much as any other regular citizen just to finish my degree. I was able to find an online university to finish it. It is still expensive.
When we first applied for DACA in 2012, the first thing that my brother and I wanted to do was get into the military, specifically into the Marines. Back then, the recruits didn’t know what DACA was; it was such a new thing. And because of our status, we were not able to join the military. That has always been my dream even before I got DACA. It’s protecting your country. I know legally in paper, I can’t say that this is my country but I’ve been living here for years and I’m an American and I’m proud. I’m also proud of being Mexican, but this is my country and I wanted to fight for it. But once again, I was denied because of my status and I knew I wanted to do something more, so I decided to go for nursing. I don’t regret anything.
I’ve been working in critical care for four years. The unit I work in in particular is a pulmonary unit, so obviously COVID is a virus that affects your lungs. So, my unit is a COVID-dedicated unit. I try to leave my problems behind at work, I try to focus on my patients. But I’m not going to lie to you. There’s still stress on my shoulders of what’s going to happen with DACA. It’s extremely stressful thinking about what’s going to happen for one month, six months, a year. Lately I’ve been trying to buy a house. There’s nothing that has been preventing me from buying a house, but I don’t think it’s a smart idea to buy a house at this point if my future is pretty much in limbo. It’s not the most rational thing. The same thing with school. This has affected me not just in my work but also in my education and in everyday life. I have to go through the loops to find the most affordable way to go to school. After this, I still want to continue my education to become a registered nurse anesthetist, which is a doctorate degree, which concerns me because unless we get a pathway to citizenship, I will have to pay out-of-state tuition on that as well.
That’s exactly why I say this is a small victory. This is not the end goal. Thank God that we’re able to not pass the end of DACA, but this is not a permanent solution. It has been proven that we provide a lot to the economy, especially now during this pandemic. We are part of the community; we belong here. That’s the reason why we should have a pathway to citizenship. This was a temporary fix to a bigger problem. That bigger problem should be fixed now.
Going back to Mexico is not an option. I love my country; that’s my heritage and I’m proud of it. I’m never going to deny where I come from, but this is my country. I’m hoping that something will happen but going back to Mexico is not an option.