DACAmented: Lalo

Lalo was born in Guanajuato, MX. Neither of his parents had the opportunity to further their education in Mexico. His mom had to drop out of school when she was in 2nd grade, and his dad had to drop out when he was in 10th grade. His parents knew the difficulties of pursuing education back home, and they didn’t want that life for their kids. Lalo was just five years old when he came to the U.S. — his dad came first and brought the rest of them over shortly after.

How did living undocumented make you feel?

I feel that I always knew I was undocumented but never really knew what it meant when I was young. I think when it hit me was probably around high school because all of my friends started getting their licenses and I realized that I had more restrictions than I thought. My parents wouldn’t let me drive because they were scared that I would get pulled over.

Also, I knew that I couldn’t get financial aid because I was undocumented, so I had to limit what I wanted to study in college. I figured that I would become a mechanic, even though that wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I took several mechanic classes and I hated it. But thankfully during my senior year, DACA passed and I was able to start looking into the field of study I was actually interested in. I applied to dental hygiene and nursing school and got accepted to both, but I decided to go with dentistry. But eventually, I would want to possibly become a doctor.

You touched a little bit about it, but can you tell me how DACA changed your life?

I feel like it gave me more options on what career field I could go into. It has given me the opportunity to have a job, because of my work permit. I can also travel now with a bit less worry, and I was also able to buy a house. DACA has helped me live a more “normal person” life.

Did having DACA make you less afraid?

I feel that it makes me feel a little less afraid. I feel I have a sense of security, but also in the back of my head, I know that this program can also end any minute so it’s a bit scary.

Can you recall the feelings that you had the last election and what that could possibly mean to DACA recipients/immigrants?

I was in college. I had just started my dental hygiene program. I remember when they announced he won I was devastated I was like “what am I even doing in college?” because he had mentioned in his speeches that he was planning to end DACA if he became president. I felt that all the time I had spent in college so far and all the money was for nothing at this point.

I remember I went the next day to my dental hygiene director and I said “Just in case this [DACA] gets canceled I might have to drop out from this program.”

What is the thing you are the proudest of so far and why?

Graduating hygiene school [at CSI] with honors and being class president for my program.

What are you hoping to accomplish in the future?

Eventually, I want to go back to school and further my education and become a dentist. I would also like to teach a dental hygiene program at the university.

How might losing DACA affect your life?

I would lose my job. This would mean no income, so I wouldn’t be able to pay my mortgage and I would end up losing my house. I feel that my life would come to a hold. I feel that everything that I have worked for so far would just not matter anymore.

Why do you think it’s important to speak up about the situation happening with DACA?

I feel that people don’t realize that we are contributing to this country and we are here to have a better life and DACA has enabled us to do that. It’s important to share our stories to show that we are real people and how many of us unfortunately don’t even remember where we came from. I feel that this is home. But feel that now we are in a grey area where we were raised here and know all of the customs from here, but yet we are looked down upon. Many people don’t want us here because they think that we are sucking the system even though it is the complete opposite.

What do you wish more people knew about DACA recipients?

That we are here to contribute to this country. That we pay taxes. That this is pretty much our home.

What message do you have for Dreamers?

It is important to unite our voices and make our voices be heard to congress, senate, supreme court, and all the legislative bodies, to let them know that we deserve to be here. Regardless of what happens, we have always found a way to move forward and we will be ok.