Life: Post-DACA (non-fiction essay)

By Carolina Valdivia

Carolina is an undocumented graduate student at San Diego State University. Creator of She recently got approved for DACA and is eager to continue helping others through her activism, education, research, and writing.



Illustration by Julio Salgado


June 5, 2012- Undocumented activists stage a sit-in at President Barack Obama’s campaign office in Denver, CO link here. This sit-in was part of several other actions where undocumented youth organized themselves across the nation to escalate the efforts of urging President Barack Obama to issue an executive order for undocumented DREAM-Act eligible youth.

Javier Hernandez and Veronica Gomez National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) stage civil disobedience and submit to hunger a strike inside President Obams's campaign offices in Denver June 4, 2012

Where was I? Sitting in my room at the International house, where I was staying for the length of my summer research assistantship at the University of Chicago; impatiently wanting to participate in an action myself. Wanting to cry from seeing the courage these two undocumented students and others were taking. Activists all over the nation standing up, speaking out, and increasingly stepping out of the shadows.

June 15, 2012- The Obama Administration announces a change in immigration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

I am waking up to text messages and e-mails, “Is this real?” “What does it mean for us now?” read the messages in my phone and computer. I do my research. I “goggle”, “facebook”, “yahoo”, you name the search engine/social network, I used it. I needed to know what was going on. I also had to finish packing, head to the airport, and make my way back home; 6/15/12 was my last day in Chicago.

Regarding DACA on the day of the news, I didn’t know if I should cry, scream, worry, or be relieved. I didn’t know what to do. I got to the airport, waited for my flight, and sat in the waiting room listening to the news as Barack Obama provided further information. Whispers in the room filled the silence. One by one, everyone turned their heads and attention to the T.V. When the announcement was done I couldn’t wait to arrive back home. I wanted to hug my family, friends, and talk about the next steps.

October 2012- I submitted my DACA application after gathering evidence that I met all of the requirements and after consulting with a couple of lawyers.

November 2012- I was approved.

From June- November, 2012 I was going on with my life as usual… attending graduate school, working part time, and organizing.

November 2012 my documentation temporarily changed, but not my dreams, goals, and passion. If anything, as each month passes, I become more passionate, and aware of the importance of my dreams and goals to help my family, friends, and community.

Receiving DACA is a big opportunity and I’m happy to know that many eligible undocumented youth will benefit and receive temporary relief and the opportunity to finally legally work, drive, and travel within the U.S.
So, if you’ve approved already or are waiting- it is time to celebrate for what is happening and what is to come.

I’m happy to know that things are changing.

If I think back to 15 years ago, the realities of graduating high school as an undocumented student were much different than they are today. We have come quite a long way. There was not much discussion/action around issues affecting undocumented students, no in-state tuition for eligible undocumented students in CA (or the 12 other states that now have a similar bill in place), and graduating from high school often times meant realizing that you couldn’t legally drive, work, and travel.

Now, post-DACA, the realities of a lot of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. continue to be the same. We have to change that. The very few of us that are able to benefit from DACA know first hand the struggles that come with being undocumented. Living in the shadows, in constant fear, and being treated as and told that we are, sub-human are only a few of the many challenges.

I have said it before and will say it again; DACA is not enough.

DACA does not heal the wounds of 11 years living in fear of being deported and/or having my family separated. DACA does not erase the memories of being told, “We have to fire you; your social security and name don’t match”. DACA does not give me back the moments I had to pass out an opportunity because it required me to travel. DACA does not bring back those who have been wrongly detained and deported. DACA does not wipe away the tears from seeing my loved ones struggle on a day-to-day basis because they are undocumented. DACA does not give me a permanent sense of hope. I can’t drive without the fear that has for years been forced upon me. I can’t travel freely. I can’t live fully… not yet, not with just DACA. I’m not a pessimist or ungrateful, I’m just a believer that we can and have to accomplish more.


Members of the NIYA stage sit-in inside Obama's campaign offices in San Francisco. The Deferred Action (DACA) program was announced by the Administration because of the NIYA sit-ins across the U.S.


One Response to “Life: Post-DACA (non-fiction essay)”
  1. Nati says:

    “I have said it before and will say it again; DACA is not enough.” I have a lot of trouble digesting these 2 sentences. To me it feels that you have a sense of entailment, that someone someone or something owes you for the suffering you have had to go through. There are 11 million or more people living illegally in this country, the vast majority decided to come here illegally. Who was at fault then, the country whose borders were abused or the people who decided that the end justifies the means. America doesn’t owe you anything, all the suffering you had to go through, all of that is YOUR parents fault. This country had and has laws that your parents decided to break and for that there are consequences.