For 19 years I have called the United States my home, my safe place and a country that I dearly love. Yet it continues to deny me recognition as one of its own as a result of my immigration status. I have lived here longer than in the country of my birth, and I have learned to love every little thing that makes America America, from its language to its seasons, its food and its noise, even its fast-paced lifestyle.
I was born in Ecuador and came to the U.S. when I was 14. As a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipient, I have been able to finish college and buy a home — but my life has been measured in two-year increments.
Soon after I arrived in this country, I realized that many of my dreams would not come true because I was missing one piece of the puzzle — “legal status.” I have never let my immigration status define who I am or what I can achieve, but the reality is that it has presented a series of obstacles that have been hard to overcome.
In June 2012, President Barack Obama announced that he would sign an executive order called DACA to protect young people who came to the U.S. as children from deportation. That took my life and dreams on a completely different, and revolutionary, path. The DACA program has been my safeguard, even if I must renew my status every two years. The program has also allowed me to become vocal and get involved in the immigrant rights movement, through which I witnessed some of the worst of this country’s tendencies during the Trump administration.
Many undocumented immigrants like me became easy prey for President Donald Trump, who constantly forced us to fight back against all of the anti-immigrant sentiment and policies that were unleashed during his presidency. Defending DACA on the streets, and in the courts, where I served as one of the plaintiffs against Trump for unlawfully ending the program, has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.
Eliana Fernández, of Patchogue, is lead organizer at the Brooklyn-based nonprofit Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights organization, and a plaintiff in Wolf v. Batalla Vidal, one of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals cases decided by the Supreme Court, which ruled that President Trump’s efforts to end DACA were unlawful.