On June 14, 2012, I flew on a plane for the first time since I arrived in the United States at four months old. Unlike that first time, I remember everything from this plane ride. The destination, Los Angeles, the purpose, become an immigrant rights organizer.
My father came with me to the airport. Although he too feared that a random officer might ask about his immigration status just for walking into Ronald Reagan National Airport, he accompanied me until the gate. I appreciated this greatly but unfortunately, I never told him. I believe that him coming with me was his way of letting me know that he believed in the risks I was taking and in my potential to create change.
As the line to go through security check slugged along, I grew increasingly nervous. All it would take to be found out would be turning the page in my Bolivian passport, which by the way was handwritten and looked fake. I tucked the boarding pass strategically on top of the visa-less page. I tried to remain calm, but my heart did not want to follow.
When the T.S.A. agent made some sort of signature on my boarding pass I could finally breathe again.
When we got to L.A. we went through a day of training on telling our immigration stories and the history of our movement. The next morning, on June 15, 2012, my phone rang at an ungodly hour (probably 5 am or so).
Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez told me in Spanish with an ecstatic voice “Les van a dar permiso de trabajo a los Dreamers.” Immediately I sat up on my hotel bed and screamed, cried, and laughed. I woke up my friend, whom I forgot I was sharing a room with. I told her that Obama was going to give work permission to Dreamers. She was happy, but much calmer than I could be.
That morning speculations, questions, concerns, but most of all dreams floated whimsically among the group. In the hours before President Obama officially announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals we marched up and down the streets of LA. I vividly remember the supportive honks from the cars that passed us as we marched, accompanied by a thumbs up and smiles. I never felt so incredibly elated to be alive and a part of history.
DACA altered my reality, but the experience of connecting with fellow Dreamers from all over the country empowered my soul. I witnessed the potential of continued collaborative advocacy. Therefore, on this June 15, 2019, on the seventh anniversary of DACA, I feel privileged to be part of “la lucha.”
By Lizzette Arias, Executive Director, Dream Project