By Michel RangelMichel is 21 years old and resides in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She is a member of the Arkansas Coalition for DREAM, an organizer for Arkansas United Community Coalition. She is a International Relations major at University of Arkansas, Fort Smith.
The day I applied for DACA was nothing I could have really myself for. Physically yes; I had all the documents and proof required, but mentally, the magnitude of what I was applying for still hadn’t hit me.
During the DACA workshops we held, it came to my attention that a lot of people didn’t realize how big a step this was either. Everyone who was minimally informed still wanted to put the big Dream Act label on it, and say that we had reached our goal. It bothered me to know how hard so many people had fought before us for YEARS and yet most of the population had almost no idea about the movement or the fact that it was because of their efforts that we were being granted Deferred Action.
It bothered me that in receiving the few benefits of this policy many were quick to settle than to fight for more.
In my mind, this policy only ignited the desire for more justice because it is only temporary, it affected only a certain age group, and it only gave a taste of a peaceful mind.
The day of my Residency interview was nothing I could have prepared myself for either. Physically yes; again we had all the documents and all of the proof but as I sat at the other side of the agent’s desk I felt as if I was in a dream. Nothing was real, it couldn’t be real and it couldn’t be happening to me. Almost the same exact feeling as sitting on the other side of my counselor’s desk two years ago, and thinking the exact same thing as she told me there was nothing she could do for me. I couldn’t grasp how the same feeling could come from two very opposite circumstances. It was such an unexplainable mixture.
I wondered what it was like to have the agent’s job; to either qualify or disqualify foreigners from the American Dream. I wondered if she really cared about the people who walked into her office everyday hoping for her to smile as she did to me and tell me that my card would be in the mail in a few days.
The day I held my Residency Card in my hand, I still couldn’t believe it. I felt like everyone in my family was just bursting with happiness and I was frozen, staring at that piece of plastic with tears in my eyes and in disbelief.
THIS WAS IT!
Somehow I felt like something inside of me was supposed to change magically, I was going to become a whole new person or something. This was the day I had been looking forward to for a LONG time. So where were the fireworks and the singing choir of angels?
I knew why I wasn’t thrilled, and don’t hate me for saying this but, I didn’t want it. Honestly, I felt like I didn’t deserve that privilege. The previous year had been full of organizing and meeting so many amazing people that I felt DID deserve it more than I did. I would have done anything to swap their picture onto my card. I was just an average student, I wasn’t sure what I even wanted to be, I had just recently joined the movement.
No, I didn’t want it.
Why give it to me?
Why not someone with much more potential, passion, intelligence… WHY ME? I didn’t even want to tell my colleagues about it. I didn’t want them to think that because of that I was going to change, because in reality, nothing about me had changed. I didn’t want them to think that because of that I was going to be less-involved, or less committed so I didn’t tell them for a long time.
I didn’t even want to tell my boyfriend because he was still waiting on his DACA to come through and hearing the desperation in his voice after months and months of waiting each time we talked about it just hurt me. I just couldn’t piece together why I had been blessed with this opportunity. It reminded me of when I had hit rock bottom at trying to piece together why I was undocumented in the first place. I had resented my parents for a while after finding out about all of the ripple effects being undocumented would have on me. I finally understood the feeling that had unfortunately led others to take their own lives, my cousin included.
But as time progressed and I learned that I was not alone in these circumstances I knew that my parents were not alone either, and they did not come here to selfishly have me live in the shadows with them but for the hope that one day I could lead them out.
The pieces were starting to come together. I became more informed and involved I became in the immigrant rights movement. I felt unafraid and empowered to stand alongside hundreds of people, who, without saying anything, I had a connection with planted deeply inside of my being. I felt at home.
I couldn’t help but to think, maybe THIS is why I was undocumented, to be a part of this moment –this movement. I was born to do this, to stand up for what is right and fight for what I believe in. Not only that but if I wasn’t undocumented I would not appreciate everything that I am thankful for.
I grew up hating and resenting a reality that made me who I am today. Hating how I couldn’t drive, how I had to use an ID that was different from the one my friends used, and couldn’t get a summer job like everyone else. Hating how my mom would tell me that I was different and I would have to live with it. Hating how my parents had to work in chicken factories. Hating how everyone was receiving scholarships and putting them to waste after one year. So angry about something that I would not trade for all of the money and benefits in the world.
BEING UNDOCUMENTED WAS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME. It wasn’t receiving DACA, neither was receiving my Residency, and not even qualifying for scholarships, because none of those things would even matter if I hadn’t been undocumented.
Now that I’m documented I can’t think of another reason for being rewarded with this privilege than to continue the fight. That piece of plastic didn’t change me, but it did remind me of who I am, where I came from and that I should be proud of it. I come from a line of hard-working, justice-seeking, dream-chasing immigrants from all around the world, and belong to a group of that continues their legacy and hopes to accomplish more than they ever imagined. I will always consider myself a DREAMer, I will always let people know that I was once undocumented, because I want others to realize that this is something to be proud of. Anti’s may say “So you are proud to come from a line of trespasser’s and lawbreakers?” No, I am proud come from line of honest people so determined to find a better life that they did become trespassers and lawbreakers.