‘I marched alongside thousands of people to send an unequivocal message to Democrats in Congress, including my own representative Sen. Chuck Schumer, that they make the rules, not the parliamentarian. They have the power to deliver an expansive and inclusive pathway to citizenship through reconciliation this year.’
The Bronx has been my home since I arrived in the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when I was nine. It is the place where my mom would walk me to school each morning, just down the street from Yankee Stadium, and where several years later, my daughters would do the same.
Just recently, my youngest daughter started kindergarten at the same elementary school I went to in 1994. I’ve always been told that my youngest looks the most like me. On her first day, my mom walked my daughter to school only to find out that the same teacher I had years ago was still there.
When Mrs. Garcia saw my daughter, she immediately remembered me. It was as if time had rewound and the girl who stood before her was my younger self; an undocumented, frightened child who knew only a few phrases in English and felt lost among her classmates.
I’m in awe of all that has changed in my life since my elementary school days and the ways New York has shaped me into the woman, organizer, and mother I am today.
But just as time has been a reminder of all the ways I’ve grown, it has also been a reminder of the ways I’ve stayed the same. All these years later, I remain undocumented and worried of the possibility that one day, I may be separated from my children and the only home we’ve known.
This year, we have a historic opportunity to change those circumstances for me and millions more who continue to face the threat of deportation.
On July 16, a Republican-appointed federal judge in Texas partially ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides undocumented people who arrived to the U.S. as children, like me, with temporary work authorization and relief from deportation. The ruling froze all first-time DACA applications, leaving tens of thousands of immigrant young people in limbo and unable to plan for their futures.
As I read the news of Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling and thought of all those young people who lost the hope of having DACA protections, I was reminded of 2017, when Donald Trump ended DACA and left me and my community at risk of deportation. From 2017 to now, the attacks against our lives have continued.
This past weekend, the Senate parliamentarian—an unelected advisor to the Senate—recommended against keeping a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth, TPS holders, farm workers and other essential workers in Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. Years ago, this news would have left me feeling defeated and perhaps hopeless at the idea of winning relief for me and my community. But as a volunteer with United We Dream and United We Dream Action, I have transformed my fears into organizing to demand that my life, my rights and those of millions of others, be recognized.
Over the past several months, I have marched, organizing a number of local rallies in my city, to demand a pathway to citizenship for all. Just this week, I hopped on a train from New York to Washington D.C., where I marched alongside thousands of people to send an unequivocal message to Democrats in Congress, including my own representative Sen. Chuck Schumer, that they make the rules, not the parliamentarian. They have the power to deliver an expansive and inclusive pathway to citizenship through reconciliation this year. I’m here to remind them of that.
As a child in Mrs. Garcia class, I dreamt of becoming an astronaut when I grew up. I dreamt of the freedom astronauts must feel being able to transcend all borders and barriers. I dreamt of traveling, attending college, becoming financially independent, accessing health care, and living without fear. I realize now that the freedoms I’ve always longed for were ones afforded to citizens and ones that I continue to fight for.
Immigrant communities have always been essential to our country’s infrastructure. In New York City alone, there are roughly half a million essential workers who are undocumented and have been on the front lines of the pandemic to ensure our communities are kept safe, fed, and healthy. Nationwide, millions of undocumented people have put their lives on the line to provide for those around them. We all need and deserve permanent relief and this is the year to make it happen.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Sen. Schumer have all the power to deliver citizenship for millions and ensure I can continue building my life with my family here in the Bronx. While my immigration status has yet to change since I was a young girl, I’m no longer the frightened child I once was. That fear has turned into determination, and I won’t stop fighting until I win citizenship for me and my community.
Eva Santos Veloz is a DACA recipient who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. She is a volunteer with United We Dream & United We Dream Action, a community organizer, and mother of three. She lives in the Bronx with her family.