Immigration and DACA: Dreamer Daniel Perez (Convo with Kyle Video and Transcript)

The text below is a transcript of the Convo with Kyle podcast. Bold text is Kyle Bell. Standard text is Daniel Perez.

Thanks for listening to Convo with Kyle. My name is Kyle Bell.

As a writer, an author, and journalist, my work has always been about telling stories. But now, I want to tell a different story. I want to tell your story.

The goal of this project is to share with you the stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary work. They may be your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers who want to make their communities, and this world, a better place for all of us. So let’s start a conversation.

Joining us today is Daniel Perez. Daniel is a social worker with a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota. He’s come on the show to talk about his experiences as a Dreamer and as a former DACA recipient. Daniel, it’s a pleasure to have you on. Thanks for coming on to share your story.

Yeah, thank you for having me. It’s quite an honor.

You know, I’ve known you for several years now, Daniel, and I’ve seen you go from being a college student who was single to now, here in 2017, you’re a husband and a father of a newborn child. You have two master’s degrees, a job that you love, and a home of your own with you and your family. So it’s really been a remarkable journey for you so far. All the while, you were undocumented throughout much of that time.

Yeah. Yeah, when you put it like that, I mean, it’s a nice way to reflect back on where I’ve been, what I’ve done. But absolutely, I was undocumented for I would say 11 years and I’ve been here in this country for about 15, so yeah, a pretty long time.

When did you first come to the US?

I came here in January 2002.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the circumstances that brought you to the US?

Yeah, definitely. I’d be happy to. So one thing to know is that my parents and my brother came here first. My dad actually came here first, then my mom and brother joined him a couple years later. I think my dad came here in 1998, and my mom and my brother came here in the year 2000, and I came here in 2002.

And what made my family move — I’ll talk about a little bit about my parents and my brother, but then I’ll tie it back to me. And so, I think it had to do with definitely a lack of opportunities of growth, both financially, professionally. When NAFTA happened in 1994, I was six and 50% to 60% of Mexicans went into poverty, including my family.

And so, that definitely made things a lot harder for my parents to provide for us. And so, eventually my dad came. And he didn’t think about coming here to stay forever. He did think about coming here for a long time, but he came in 1998.

And my family had always experienced a lot of persecution from my dad’s family’s side. One thing to know is that my dad and his family are much more light-skinned, blue and green-eyed, very Spanish European looking. My mom, on the other side, is much more like indigenous native looking.

And so, there’s always been this divide of colorism. The lighter you are, the better, more intelligent, those kind of beliefs. And because my mom is dark-skinned — and she was definitely poor, and my dad came from like the richest family in his hometown — there was definitely a divide and definitely tension.

And given that we are my mom’s children — me and my brother — we were definitely outcasts or never fully loved very well. And that’s something that we definitely experienced, my brother and I growing up, different treatment by my dad’s family’s side. And I think that emotional and sometimes physical persecution caught up with them, and my dad finally decided to move for many years. And then he definitely brought my mom and brother here, but me–

Who were you living with when your parents were over here?

Yeah, I lived — I first lived with my mom’s mom, so my maternal grandma. And that was by choice. I actually never wanted to come to the States. If you know my history, it’s one of a lot of academic excellence. I went to a private Catholic elementary school, and I did it because I was earning scholarships since the age of five because of my grades. And so, my parents couldn’t have been able to afford it, but I was earning scholarships and I was pretty well-to-do in terms of school and academic achievement.

And so, I knew that I could thrive in Mexico and I could go to college, because college is mostly free and all those pieces. And so, I never intended to come here, but it wasn’t until that emotional, physical persecution that my parents had endured for many years caught up with me.

And I decided to stay, at the time when the persecution wasn’t happening. And so, I stayed with my maternal grandma. And eventually I had to move with my paternal grandma — my dad’s mom — and then things didn’t go so well and I had to leave.

I had to come here and leave my life behind. Most of my family was there, most of my friends, the girl that I liked, my plans to go to college, and all these things — my culture, the food that I was used to — and then I had to leave and I had to join my parents when I was about 15 years old.

So you didn’t really want to leave. It was more like being forced to leave.

Absolutely. I was supposed to leave. And you can imagine I was a pretty angry adolescent, especially against my dad. It definitely set up painful dynamics in the relationship for many, many years to come.

What did your dad do in Mexico for work?

He did a little bit of everything. Even though he was born to the richest man in town — who had millions, and a farm, and many things growing — like, he was a farmer. And my dad learned many of those skills. He was pretty good at managing the fields, and raising pigs, and cattle, all these things.

So my dad grew up doing that, but when they moved into the city, he and my mom — and then they had me and my brother — he had to find some other type of work, because he was only allowed to finish middle school. So he never actually went to high school. And so, he had to make due. So he had multiple jobs from agriculture to driving taxis to construction, you name it.

What about your mom?

My mom — my mom was able to finish high school, and I believe she was able to finish a two year college degree. At the time, there were typewriters. Computers were not available. So the nice thing is that if you learned typewriting and gained amazing skills in that, you could be an administrative assistant.

And so, she was able to get a pretty nice paying job as an administrative assistant at different jobs in Mexico, which actually one of them collapsed when NAFTA and 1994 happened. And that’s when my mom lost her job and we were sent into poverty, but that’s what my mom did.

What part of Mexico are you from?

I’m from Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. And that’s pretty close to Puerto Vallarta. That’s about three hours away from Puerto Vallarta, so close to the Pacific Ocean.

What do your parents do here?

So now my mom — you know, she’s had health problems for quite a long time now — arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other things, a little bit of depression, thyroid problems. So I think she started developing those issues probably — let me think — seven, eight years ago. So she could no longer work.

So I guess she’s a stay at home wife. And she volunteers a lot with childcare, and daycares, and school. And she’s still working on her GED and learning English. And my dad, he works — he recently changed jobs. And so, I believe he works at a car dealership in the mechanic’s side polishing cars, keeping them up-to-date and polishing them so that customers can buy the fanciest, prettiest looking car kind of thing.

So when you first came here, I imagine that was quite the culture shock for you.

Yeah. That’s an understatement. It was definitely challenging. It was definitely–

Did you know any English?

No. I mean, I think I was exposed to English classes at the age of 10 when I was in fourth grade. And I continued to take English courses until I came here. And I never thought I had learned, but I basically knew very basic English — good morning, how are you, goodbye — but not anything that would allow me to survive.

Right.

Yeah. So in terms of culture shock, I definitely endured it from the food to personal space to communication patterns, and idioms, and you name it — even transportation. I was just flabbergasted that Minnesota actually has a pretty terrible transportation system, especially for people who don’t live in the Twin Cities or the metro area — St. Paul, Minneapolis.

What do you mean by that when you say a terrible transportation system?

Oh, it’s just not very accessible. It’s not very frequent. It’s not–

You mean public transit?

Public transit, yes, yes. That’s what I mean.

But it was where you were from in Mexico?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, public transit came like every eight to ten minutes. It could get you anywhere in the city from far away to the downtown of the city. I mean, it was pretty convenient. Taxis were super cheap as well. Sometimes people actually preferred paying for taxis than having their own car, because once you factored in gas, and insurance, and repairs, all those things, people were better off paying for a taxi.

So did you start high school when you moved? You said you were 14 or 15?

15.

15, so you were in high school then.

Yeah. You know, the education system in Mexico, it’s a little bit different. Because elementary school in Mexico is from first through sixth grade. Middle school goes from seventh through ninth. And high school goes from tenth through twelfth.

So actually when I came here, I had to finish middle school, which was I had finished ninth grade and then I had started tenth grade, my first semester of tenth grade. And because I moved here in January of 2002, I was able to complete that semester. And then I started here in the States as a second semester freshman. They did put me a year behind because of my limited English skills.

OK, so it was like an ESL class?

Yeah, most definitely. Most of my classes for probably my freshman and sophomore year were ELL or ESL classes. I would say I think by junior year I only had one ESL class, so it was Advanced English, I believe. And then my senior year, I think I had all mainstream classes.

So you picked up on the language really quick.

Yeah, I think so. That’s what people tell me. And looking back, I’m like, oh yeah. I have friends who have told me so. I think — you know, there’s research that says that if a kiddo gets exposed to a different language at a certain age and continues to be exposed for so many years, they will have an easier time learning that language or even another language.

But I think that’s what happened, because I started getting exposed at the age of like 10, I believe. And that just continued with the MTV generation, which I did watch a lot of MTV and those kind of things, and I tried to listen to English music and get lyrics. So I think that exposure definitely made it much, much easier for me to — when I came here — to pick it up.

Is there anything else specifically about your story that you would like to mention?

Well, specifically I think one thing that is important to say is that neither my parents nor I wanted to come to the US — and nothing against the US. It’s mostly about the fact that all human beings are longing for love, and connection, and safety, and ability to thrive. And Mexico wasn’t necessarily providing that environment for my parents and my brother. It was providing it for me many times, and then eventually it didn’t.

But I can see — and I want to acknowledge that the policies and the relationship that Mexico and the US have had for such a long time has impacted both countries but more negatively Mexico. And I definitely experienced it, my parents experienced it, and many people have experienced it over so many decades. And so, I think this issue of immigration, it’s definitely fueled by many factors, including in which the US does business, and policies, and all these trades with many countries, especially my own.

I mean, you sound very negative on NAFTA.

Yeah, I think at the time I didn’t understand it. As a kid, all I knew was, oh wow, my family was thrown into poverty. But people blamed it on the corrupt Mexican government — which I’m pretty sure had to do something with it — but at the time there was no context. There was no actual broader lens to look at. Like, oh, these policies, this trade agreement was actually one of the root of the causes of our collapse.

Because, I mean, whether we like it or not, countries are trying to get the most out of things. But the United States has such a paternalistic and exploitative relationship with many countries — but in this case Mexico — that of course it doesn’t matter if Mexican people go into poverty 50% to 60% of them, as long as the US gets the upper hand and higher benefit.

Yeah, so I kind of wanted to start the conversation this way because people talk about immigration in really abstract ways. But for people like yourself and millions of other Americans who call the US home who happened to have been born in another country, it’s not an abstract topic at all. It’s your daily life. It’s their daily life. And there are real human consequences to actions by the US government, which we’re seeing it in the news every single day — sometimes even life or death consequences — when it comes to immigration policy.

Yeah, it’s definitely true. I mean, it’s something that I still struggle with because of the news, because of my friends, my family, people I love and care deeply for, and how immigration or our status weighs on our shoulders all the time. It definitely defines our daily lived experience, whether we feel safe driving, whether we feel safe flying, you name it — going into a government building because we might or might not have a proper ID, banking — you name it. I think it’s just one of those things that’s always on my mind. And I think most people who are born here don’t have to think about that.

So there’s this popular image out there — which is completely inaccurate — that undocumented immigrants are in this position because they don’t have motivation or whatever to get the necessary documents for them to become naturalized. That’s not really true, though.

The US immigration system is complex. It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. You can testify to this.

Yeah.

Unless you have an advanced degree or you have close family connections, there is no pathway to citizenship, which is why people in often desperate situations come to the US without the proper papers, or they overstay a tourist, or student visa, or whatever, because the options aren’t there to stay and do so legally.

Correct. Yeah, I think — I mean, you just said it, I think. Immigration is — the policies here in the States, the system, the immigration system and the body that process immigrant applications is pretty complex.

And one thing that also has to be acknowledged is that depending on where you’re born, you might have access to very easy immigration to the States. European countries or Australia, they just don’t have to go through the hurdles that Mexicans, Filipinos, and many other South American countries — although the Philippines is not a South American country, but I’m just saying — south of the border of the US, definitely people on this continent have to go through so many hurdles, so many trials, pay so much money in order to attain a piece of paper and legal entry that many Europeans can attain so easily.

But going back to your question more directly, yeah, it is a complex issue. It is definitely something that I had to deal with because there is no easy way for you to — for me and for many people — attain legal citizenship because there was no path, because it is so lengthy.

I can say that as soon as my parents arrived here in the States, my mom’s sister applied, petitioned my mom, my dad, my brother and I as a family for sponsorship so that we could become green card holders someday. Well, given our category — because immigration creates categories — parent-child is first, and of course marriage is as well, and then there’s tiers.

But siblings, sibling relationships — so if you’re a sibling petitioning an illegal or undocumented person, a sibling, it’s definitely not at the top of the list. So for Mexican nationals like my mom who get petitioned by a sibling — a US citizen sibling — the average wait time, it’s between 20 to 30 years. My mom came here in 2000 and it’s 2017. Her application got approved in 2005. She’s been waiting since–

Wow.

–in order to get a green card. So it’s been 17 years, and we’re counting.

So I wanted to talk a bit about DACA and the Dreamers. You were a DACA recipient. You’re now a legal permanent resident, but for those who might not have heard about the program or just not completely familiar with DACA, could you explain a bit about what the program is, why it was created?

Sure. So DACA refers to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. So it was created for children who had come to the States before the age of 16 and who have been here in the States since June 15, 2007, I believe. And we couldn’t be over the age of 30. And we either had to be in school, or have graduated from college — from high school, or be going to college, and/or be working.

And so, typically I just tell people this is a policy based on meritocracy. The good immigrants who don’t have a criminal record — that was another pre-requisite. You couldn’t have any criminal record — and who were deemed worthy of being given access to a Social Security number and a work permit so that the US could benefit as well from our labor, and taxes, and all those things. We were going to be given a permit for two years to be able to work.

Right. What was your initial reaction to DACA?

It was quite positive. I think I was — so let me think back. And nobody saw it coming. I was pretty connected to immigrant rights groups. I had been talking to this lawyer, who is pretty well-known nationally and especially in Minnesota. And so, nobody saw it coming. Nobody talked about DACA ever happening.

And so, at the time I was finishing my first year of grad school. I was doing two master’s — one in social work, one in family social science. And I was actually thinking, you know what? As soon as I finish my two master’s, I’m going to leave the States. This country does not want me. I don’t think I’m going to be able to work legally in my field.

I did not want to be doing low-skilled labor. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what I wanted to do, and especially with two advanced degrees. And so, I actually was thinking about leaving the US. I was thinking about of doing PhD programs in either social work or public health in Cambridge, in Spain, or even Australia, or I was thinking of going and working as a social worker internationally, because I could definitely get hired as a social worker with degrees from the US.

And when the policy was announced, it was definitely astonishing. It took me probably a whole day, if not more, to realize, oh wow, this is happening. And because this is happening now, I might be able to stay and not leave my family, and not leave my friends, and not leave the country that I’ve grown to love and have a dysfunctional relationship with because I love it and many times it still continues to tell me I don’t want you. And so, that’s what happened when DACA was announced.

Yeah, I mean, I remember when DACA was first introduced. It was back in 2012, right?

Yes.

So it was during — it was basically during the middle of President Obama’s re-election campaign.

Right.

And I recall before DACA was announced, there were a lot of protests, student-led protests from undocumented students who were pushing President Obama to provide some kind of pathway to citizenship or a program similar to DACA.

Right.

Right?

Yep.

Do you know any people that — or were you yourself involved in that movement?

No. I like to say that I was, but I think one of the things that I definitely struggle with is being a rule-breaker — and I mean that in the most positive sense, in the sense that I just struggle challenging authority. I’m a rule follower. I defer to authority. I defer to my elders.

Part of that is just my Latino culture and family origin. And so, I was never that bold. I supported it. I was spiritually there, but it was definitely scary. I want to preserve myself. I want to not get in trouble.

Yeah, I was definitely afraid of being pulled over, of being detained. What would be the consequences of that? And I was also afraid of being exposed — being photographed at a rally and now people know or could assume my identity, all those things. And so, there was a lot of fear. And so, I wasn’t that bold, but I definitely support the movement as much as I could. Yeah.

That’s understandable.

I think that thing that you said that I want to expand is that piece of — DACA is not equivalent to the DREAM Act, because the DREAM Act was actually a policy that was a little bit more comprehensive and would establish a path for legalization or getting a green card and eventually being able to become a US citizen. DACA was not that. DACA was just a very temporary status. It was a work permit.

I call it a quasi-legal status, because with the DREAM Act we would have been able to perhaps leave the country and do many things that American citizens do and just being able to travel internationally. DACA did not necessarily allow us to do that. It was a much more contrived, restrictive policy tied to a two-year work permit and a temporary Social Security number.

Right, right. Opponents of DACA, a pretty common argument that they use is they argue that it is a type of amnesty. And, first off, DACA doesn’t provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, like you mentioned. And with ending DACA, really they’re pushing to punish kids for the actions that their parents did.

And you know what? Over the years, the more I grow, the more I learn and the less I know kind of thing. And now that I’m definitely involved in the immigrant rights movements, I definitely have attended protests, and definitely have a much more view on immigration and all those things, that was the message that was given back in the day about we Dreamers, we DACA recipients are through no fault of our own — our parents brought us, so we’re kind of like victims and survivors.

And in a way, what I didn’t realize and what at the time we didn’t realize is by using that language, we’re throwing our parents under the bus of, like, they committed the crime. Why should we be punished? And I think I’ve been wrestling with that and just thinking about it more.

And I’m just like, our parents are also the victims from so many traumatic policies and exploitative policies, particularly from the US. So, in some sense, our parents are only doing what as human beings we’re engineered to do, to not sustain collective trauma and chronic trauma and actually flee dangerous situations in order to arrive to greener pastures — and greener pastures in this case means the United States — but with a significant cost to our well-being as well, being marginalized, being oppressed, and then being scapegoated, and being labeled so many things — not only from Trump but many other people.

And so, I say that because I think the more I grow, the more complex things become. But I think one thing that has become clear to me, it’s like, yep, our parents brought us here and we were not at fault of that. And I also believe that our parents were not necessarily at fault of what they did because I don’t think anybody wants to leave their home country. I don’t think anybody wants to endure what so many of us immigrants — undocumented immigrants — have to endure in order to have a little bit of a better life.

I think that’s a good point that you make, because I think when we’re talking about DACA and the DREAM Act parents do often get forgotten in that discussion. And as sympathetic as I think a lot of people are to Dreamers, I think listeners should also put themselves in the shoes of someone who is an undocumented immigrant. And just for a few seconds, imagine what it’s like to grow up in another country that has massive unemployment, a lack of basic security. Mexico right now is riddled with cartel violence.

Yeah.

I mean, the ability to support your family is limited at best. And your family has similar circumstances. But as a parent, what would you do in that situation? As an act of love, wouldn’t you do everything that’s in your power to make sure that your child’s life is better, to make sure that they have some stability in their life? Because I think that is the ultimate act of love.

And I think that’s a conversation I’ve been having with many people, whether parents, mental health providers, and just general people. I have conservative friends, and definitely we — I don’t approach topics like immigration and Trump with I want to convince you. It’s more like I want to understand you, and I also want you to understand me and my lived experience.

And I think you’re absolutely right. When I talk about this topic about immigration, I think what has made it more tangible for people who were not very sympathetic, or didn’t want to understand, or just were very legalistic and black and white about it — your parents broke the law or you broke the law, so you need to be sent back and go back to the line kind of thing.

But I think now we have North Korea and the US definitely building more tension between the countries and they both have nuclear weapons. And there’s a possibility that we might have a nuclear disaster going on. And so, when I talk to people now it’s like, you know what?

Just imagine what would happen if there’s a war between these two nations and now we’re being bombarded. As a parent or if you have people — you don’t have to be a parent. You just have to have somebody who you deeply care about and love. Wouldn’t you want them to be safe? Wouldn’t you want them to thrive?

Because here’s the thing. Should that happen — and my God, I pray it doesn’t happen — but should that happen, wouldn’t most of us, if not all of us, want to flee? Because who would want to endure that? Who would want to put our families, our loved ones through a situation like that?

And if that were to happen, we’re not going to care about whether we are documented or undocumented in another nation, because we’re going to be seeking safety, and refuge, and community, and basic needs — you know, survival. And so, I think that in a way has helped many people who are definitely paying attention to what’s the state of our nation? What could happen?

And now because the threat of war is definitely more palpable and real, I think many people are having an aha moment to say, oh, absolutely. Now I can understand the flight and the plight of undocumented folks, because that might be me.

But, I mean, it does take a great amount of sacrifice to do what your parents did, though. I mean, they left their native home, the familiar culture, the language that they knew, and they came to a country that in a lot of ways denigrates them, calling them illegals and the other epithets that I won’t actually repeat.

Yeah.

But they did it as a sacrifice to make sure that their children had a better life.

Mhm. Yeah, and can they be blamed? Once again, as a former therapist, as a social worker, as a person who’s — like, my deep knowledge is in family system theory, and development, and all these things. And we are engineered for love, and connection, and safety, and belonging, and not for mass trauma, or chronic persecution, or to endure oppression and marginalization. We are not meant for that.

And so, can you blame people for actually doing something to fulfill their basic needs and to fulfill the mission for which they were created — to love and be in a community and be safe. I don’t think so. You can’t make an argument — a logical argument for that, at least in my eyes. You can make a legal argument, but not a biological or psychological one.

I would agree with that. And I think that people conveniently forget that every single one of us in this country is the descendant of immigrants somewhere along the line, other than Native Americans.

Exactly. Yeah, and so, this land is not even ours. We fought, and we colonized it, and we said this is the land of the free and this is my land. It’s stolen land. And so, to not recognize that and to claim property over something that we didn’t legally acquire I just — I have an issue with that.

By the way, Daniel, I try to remain somewhat dispassionate on these podcast episodes, and I’m failing at that tonight. But I can’t be dispassionate about this, because what’s being done in this country right now by President Trump and his administration, it’s very wrong and it’s against our values as Americans.

He’s jeopardizing the futures of 800,000 kids who did absolutely nothing wrong. They grew up here, in many cases since they were in diapers. And they don’t know another home. And I think what’s happening is just shameful and I won’t stand for it. So I’m not going to pretend to be neutral on this topic. I stand with the Dreamers, and I’m pretty unapologetic about that.

I share your passion, I think, because it impacts me personally and it’s something that I definitely went through and continue to go through in some ways because of the work that I do, my friends, my family, my acquaintances, the people I love. It’s definitely something that I can’t be neutral on. And especially, like I told you before, there’s no — there’s a legal argument around legality and immigration status and all those things, but from a biological, developmental, psychological argument or viewpoint, there’s none.

Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?

Well, let me think.

I had a question.

Yeah. Yeah, go ahead.

I had a question for you. It’s a little bit — do you feel more secure now having your green card under President Trump or a few years ago as an undocumented person with DACA protection under President Obama?

That’s an excellent question, to be honest. I think from the time that I received DACA under President Obama, I definitely noticed that my life changed and my mental health and well-being definitely improved. There was no longer fear of driving without a driver’s license, and being pulled over, and maybe being deported. That went away, and it was such a relief.

The ability to have legal work in my field, I don’t think I would have been able to do that without DACA. And so, I would say that there are so many layers that I could talk about for hours how my life changed and how things just improved economically, mentally, emotionally, socially in every single way.

And so, now with having a green card even under President Trump, it just feels like there’s not a lot to worry. And I think particularly with DACA when I had DACA, I — it’s a complex story and I won’t say too much, because it will take too much time. But I did have to leave the country.

I had to petition for advanced parole. It’s a special permit under DACA that would allow me to travel outside of the country and come back legally. There were only three reasons for which you could apply and be approved for.

It could be for work, or educational purposes abroad. It could be for humanitarian reasons, like working for Social Workers Without Borders, in my case, or for visiting a dying family member. Or it could be to further develop your skills, like a professional conference.

And for me, I did that. I made that choice to apply for advanced parole in order to leave the country and come back legally. I wanted to go to a conference on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Canada.

And because I had to do that, my wife and I actually had to think about what that would mean, because even though I was under President Obama at the time, leaving the country was fine. It was the easy part with the notice of approval. But coming back was the challenging part, because advanced parole clearly said if you leave the country and when you return the border agent does not let you come in — because I’m at their full discretion — you will be out of the country for quite a while, unable to return, and you don’t have any legal recourse, because it was a discretionary order.

Kendra and I had to take the risk and go through the mental dynamics of what if I’m not allowed back home? What if I’m not allowed into the States again? That meant we are moving to Canada and starting all over — saying goodbye to our families. She is Canadian. My wife is Canadian and we would have support there, but it would be starting all over from jobs, house, community, all these things. And because of my immigration stuff, I would have been banned from the United States for 10 years.

So because of that, I think I’m making the case — a parallel case now — with even if for some reason I were to lose my green card or under President Trump I was scrutinized to the 10th degree and I, for some reason, was not allowed to become a US citizen and then my green card was taken away, I think because of those mental gymnastics I had to do back in the day when I had advanced parole, like, the worst case scenario has played out in our heads. And it’s like, you know what? I’m not going to live in fear. I’m going to let things play out. And if Trump ever takes my ability to live here in this country legally, we will just have to move, because at one point in time we were prepared to do so.

But, I mean, you’re in a bit of a different situation though than a lot of people find themselves in, since you have an advanced degree.

Absolutely, absolutely. The intersection between oppression and privilege couldn’t be more real in my case. And that’s something that I definitely confess and speak to. The majority of people don’t have — I mean, here’s the thing. The majority of people in the States, period, don’t have a master’s degree, let alone two. And so, even among native born, I am one of the most educated people in this country.

And so, I have access to many things that the “average American,” quote unquote, doesn’t have to, that luxury of transporting themselves internationally and do work and all these things, having access to many things. So I say that because it is true. Many, many, many people in my shoes who don’t have an advanced degree who are DACA recipients and not green card holders wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so.

In this case with Trump, I don’t necessarily fear for me. I definitely fear a lot more for relatives, for friends, for students and families that I work with. And so, that fear is really palpable. It’s really touchable. I can grab it. I can see it in people’s faces and in people’s bodies. And so, because I care about them, and I work with them, and I serve them, that’s just something that I take home, even though it doesn’t necessarily impact me as a person anymore.

With Obama being president and getting DACA, it definitely — the personal fear definitely decreased as well. But there was a — it was a temporary thing, and it could be ended. It could end or I could not be renewed. So there was a little bit of fear around, like, make sure you continue to do things well, stay under the radar, don’t cause problems, all those things.

So I think the fears were different. And so, under Trump, I definitely feel much less personally impacted, but communally, I definitely see it a lot more with the people I interact with on a daily basis.

Well, Daniel, I really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your story with us. Hopefully in a few years maybe we can have you back on and maybe we’ll have better news, hearing that some kind of immigration reform passed. That seems like it’s in the distant future, but I guess we can only hope.

Yes, we can only hope. And I thank you so much for having me. It was definitely a pleasure talking with you. And, yeah, I hope to be back in a few years when hopefully immigration-related news are much happier, and better, and different.

I’d like to thank you again for listening to Convo with Kyle. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more episodes. You can also keep the conversation going on social media by visiting facebook.com/convowithkyle and twitter.com/convowithkyle. I’d love to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.