Dispatch — January 25, 2017, 8:00 am

Dream On

Being a DACA enrollee in Trump’s America

In June 2012, when the Obama Administration announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Greisa Martinez was selling used cars in Dallas, Texas. Martinez, who was undocumented, quickly signed up. Through the program, which provides legal protection to undocumented migrants who arrived in the United States as children, she was able to obtain a work permit for the first time. She quit her job at the car lot and eventually became the advocacy director for United We Dream, an organization led by undocumented youth. In the years since, her salary has risen by 70 percent and she has purchased her first home. “I’m living my wildest dream,” said Martinez, who is now twenty-eight years old. “It completely changed my life.”

In the past four years, nearly 750,000 undocumented migrants like Martinez have enrolled in DACA. According to a 2015 survey, their wages increased by an average of 45 percent, and 92 percent reported pursuing educational opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t. But under President Trump, they could lose their protected status. Because Obama created the program through an executive order, Trump could easily shutter it—something he repeatedly promised to do during his campaign. In December, he appeared to soften his tone toward undocumented youth, telling Time magazine, that he was “going to work something out” because “they got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here.” But Martinez is still nervous. “You just really don’t know where you’re going to end up,” she said.

Martinez and her family migrated from Hidalgo, Mexico, to Texas when she was only seven years old. Because Texas—along with about twenty other states—allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, Martinez was able, in 2006, to enroll at Texas A&M University, where she majored in political science. After graduating, she volunteered on congressional campaigns, hoping to get a job in politics. But without a work permit, she couldn’t find anyone who would hire her. “It wasn’t until I was eligible for DACA that I was able to use all of that experience and all of the knowledge,” she told me. After gaining DACA status several years ago, Martinez established good credit, moved to Washington, D.C., and landed her job at United We Dream. She now helps cover some of her mother’s health care costs and supports the education of her three younger sisters.

If Trump overturns DACA, people like Martinez could lose more than just their status or income. The program required applicants to provide a host of intimate, personal information, including their current and past addresses. If this data is handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, it could be used to track down and deport them or their loved ones. “The biggest threat for someone like me is not only completely upending the lives we’ve built over the last few years but what will happen to our families, what will happen to our parents,” said Martinez. “Did we ourselves give them up?”

There has been pushback in Congress. Earlier this month, members of both houses introduced bipartisan bills to protect DACA recipients from deportation. Meanwhile, John Kelly, the nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security, declined to say whether his department would use applicant data from the program to facilitate deportations. Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for Attorney General, said during his confirmation hearing that deporting enrollees would not likely be the administration’s top priority, but he also stated that, “the attorney general’s role is to enforce the law.” For the time being, United We Dream and other immigrant-rights groups are recommending that people who have not yet applied refrain from doing so, while encouraging those who are already enrolled to file for renewal, as the law requires them to do every two years.

Over the holidays, Martinez went through a “know your rights” training with her family, including instructing them not to open the door unless they know who’s there. She also spoke to one of her sisters about how their lives would change if they lost their work permits. “It’s been a lot of kitchen table conversations about what will happen,” she said. “There has also been silence. There’s this overwhelming fear about what it means, and sometimes families don’t have the right words or tools to be able to talk about it.”

Still, the family knows firsthand how much is at stake. In 2008, Martinez’s father was deported after he was pulled over for failing to make a full stop at a stop sign. “When I think about him, I feel a deep sense of sadness as well as some regret,” she said. DACA recipients can apply to travel outside the United States for humanitarian purposes, but only those facing exigent circumstances—like needing urgent medical care or wanting to attend the funeral of a close relative—are granted permission. Martinez applied a few weeks ago to see her dad, but she hasn’t heard back.

“The sweetest kind of success comes when you thought it was never going to happen to you,” said Martinez, reflecting on how DACA has improved her life. “The most bitter experience is to have it all and have it taken away from you.”

Help support our ongoing coverage of Donald Trump by subscribing to Harper’s Magazine today!

Share
Single Page

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2019

The Story of Storytelling

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Myth of White Genocide

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
No Joe!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the heart of the US Capitol there’s a small men’s room with an uplifting Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt quotation above the door. Making use of the facilities there after lunch in the nearby House dining room about a year ago, I found myself standing next to Trent Lott. Once a mighty power in the building as Senate Republican leader, he had been forced to resign his post following some imprudently affectionate references to his fellow Republican senator, arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond. Now he was visiting the Capitol as a lucratively employed lobbyist.

Article
The Myth of White Genocide·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The squatter camp outside Lawley township, in the southwest of Johannesburg, stretches for miles against a bare hillside, without electricity, water, or toilets. I visited on a blustery morning in October with a local journalist named Mophethe Thebe, who spent much of his childhood in the area. As we drove toward the settlement he pointed out land that had been abandoned by white Afrikaner farmers after the end of apartheid in 1994, and had since been taken over by impoverished black settlers who built over the former farms with half-paved roadways and tiny brick houses. You could still see stands of headstones inscribed in Afrikaans, all that remained visible of the former inhabitants.

Article
The Story of Storytelling·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The story begins, as so many do, with a journey. In this case, it’s a seemingly simple one: a young girl, cloaked in red, must carry a basket of food through the woods to her bedridden grandmother. Along the way, she meets a duplicitous wolf who persuades her to dawdle: Notice the robins, he says; Laze in the sun, breathe in the hyacinth and bluebells; Wouldn’t your grandmother like a fresh bouquet? Meanwhile, he hastens to her grandmother’s cottage, where he swallows the old woman whole, slips into her bed, and waits for his final course.

Article
Run Me to Earth·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They were released.

For the first time in seven years, they stood outside in the courtyard of the reeducation center. They looked across at the gate. They remembered none of this. The flagpole and the towers. The cameras. Prany counted the sentries in the towers. He heard the rattle of keys as the guard behind him, wearing a green uniform, undid his handcuffs. Then the guard undid Vang’s. They rubbed their free wrists. Vang made fists with his hands.

Prany dug the soles of his new shoes into the dirt. He watched Vang’s hands and then turned to see the building they had exited. It resembled a schoolhouse or a gymnasium. The flag flapped in the wind. The sun on him. The immense sky. His neck was stiff. He knew that if they were forced to run right now his legs might buckle. Not because he was weak, but because in this moment, in the new environment, out in the open, his entire body felt uncertain.

Article
New Books·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Ten years ago, a week after his sixtieth birthday, and six months after his first appointment with an oncologist, my father died. That afternoon, I went to my parents’ bedroom to clear up the remains of the lunch my mother had brought him not long before he collapsed. A copy of Yiyun Li’s novel The Vagrants, which he’d asked me for after I reviewed it in a newspaper, was open on his bedside table. He had gotten about halfway through it. The Vagrants isn’t what you’d call a consoling book—it centers on a young woman’s unjust execution in a provincial Chinese town in 1979—and I had mixed feelings about it being the last thing he’d read. Perhaps an adolescent part of me had been happy to let him have it out of a need to see him as a more fearless reader than he might have wanted to be just then. Still, my father had read Proust and Robert Musil while working as a real estate agent. There was comfort, of a sort, for me, and maybe him, in his refusal of comfort reading.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

Classes at a Catholic school in Durham, North Carolina, were canceled in anticipation of protests against a lesbian alumna, who had been invited to speak at a Black History Month event.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today