NJ Latina at the Center of DAPA Debate

Olga Armas is a DAPA beneficiary. (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Olga Armas is a DAPA beneficiary. (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

Olga Armas ‒ a resident of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and an undocumented immigrant ‒ is at the center of the media spotlight in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and in tri-state area local news outlets after she wrote an opinion column for The New York Times.

Several publications, including La Jornada de México, El Colombiano, Peruvian magazine Caretas, Washington-based The Latin American Group, America’s Voice and websites N-24 and NJ.com translated the article or interviewed her in relation to her testimony.

This time, she spoke exclusively and showed her identity to a Hispanic periodical in the United States. “I was motivated to write [the column] because it is a true story, my story, my experience,” Armas told Reporte Hispano. “I think that millions of people in this great nation are in the same situation as me, and not all their voices can be heard.”

Armas said that, by telling her story, she meant to offer her two cents. “Like the stories of so many other immigrants, it contains a lot of suffering, uncertainty, but also a lot of hope that someday all this may change and that I could benefit from DAPA. Why not tell it if it could also end up helping my daughters?”

In the op-ed entitled “What I Will Do When I Get My Papers,” Armas tells about how she lives in fear of being deported and narrates an episode that shook her.

“We fear deportation all the time. One day, a police officer stopped the car my husband was riding in and asked everyone for identification. My husband doesn’t have an ID, and the police officer made him get out of the car. My husband was terrified that he would be arrested and sent back to Peru. In the end, the officer just made him wait outside in the cold. Fortunately, another friend came to pick him up and take him to work; otherwise he could have lost his job,” reads the column.

The article was published on April 22, and its relevance comes not only because the newspaper has a circulation of 1,200,000 daily copies, but because that was the day when the Supreme Court convened to make a decision on DAPA, said Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey.

“We believe that the judges made a decision that Friday and that they will make it public in June,” said the activist.

The Supreme Court is currently reviewing the case U.S. v. Texas, in which the Obama administration is seeking to unblock the suspension of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive actions ordered by the president, which were temporarily frozen by Texas federal judge Andrew S. Hanen.

Armas was born in Peru and is an activist with Make the Road. She took part in the April 18 march held in Washington on the day when the court was hearing the arguments in favor of and against the policy.

She arrived in Washington carrying a peanut butter sandwich, water and some fruit, and stood on the steps of the Supreme Court alongside pro-immigrant activists from 30 states to express their support for President Obama’s measures through their presence and their voices.

“We could not make it inside the court, but I say: If we don’t fight, no one will do it for us. This is part of our struggle. It is part of everything I love,” added Armas.

The activist arrived in the U.S. in 2002 from the Villa María del Triunfo district in Lima, Peru, with her 6-year-old daughter, who benefits from DACA. Her two younger girls were born on U.S. soil. Armas says that she has built a life here and that she is not moving out.

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