NYC Youth Stressed About the Future of DACA

Antonio Alarcón, a coordinator at Make the Road in Queens. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Since Jan. 20, when Donald Trump took office as the new president of the United States, Mexican-born Antonio Alarcón has been unable to sleep soundly. His stress is such that, day or night, he cannot stop thinking about what his future will be.

Just 22, the Veracruz native is one of the more than 750,000 beneficiaries of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) who are on pins and needles because of the measures Trump may take regarding the executive order signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, which gave work permits and protection against deportation to undocumented people who arrived as minors.

“The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions, not knowing if they will strike down DACA or keep it. I am so stressed and anxious that, since the election, I eat all the time and have gained about 15 pounds,” said the community organizer at Make the Road New York (MRNY).

“At night, I eat and can’t sleep. I see the executive orders signed in the morning and, when I go to bed, I don’t want to sleep not knowing what is going to happen the next day. I wonder: ‘What else is this man going to come up with?’ It’s so troubling,” said Antonio, admitting that, even though DACA is not the ideal solution immigrants were hoping for in order to come out of the shadows, it has indeed helped them have a better life. Should Trump end the program, the impact on them would be enormous.

“It is worrisome because you know you could lose your job and some benefits we now have, such as protection against deportation and a social security number,” he said. “Still, I’m not allowed to vote under DACA, I can’t get health insurance, leave the country or receive financial aid.” He added that, if they took his work permit away, he would have to think about dropping out of his filmmaking studies.

“Obviously, not having a job would make me stress out even more about how I’m going to pay for college, and I would have to think of postponing it or taking fewer classes for a few months until I can open my own company to continue working as an independent contractor,” he said.

The young man crossed the border when he was 10 with his parents, who later chose to return to Mexico. They have told him that, “if things get worse,” he should do the same.

“My parents say that, should anything happen, Mexico will welcome me with open arms  (…) but I’m not leaving,” said the young man in a determined tone.

“Ever since Trump came in and declared war on us, I am clear that it will not be easy if he wants to kick us out. We are going to continue fighting as well as we can and without fear,” stressed Alarcón. He added that he has already contacted a number of lawyers to resort to legal resources in case Trump repeals the DACA program.

“I am ready to fight the legal battle and take our case to court, and I tell other young people to do the same, because, if many of our parents have held on here with even fewer opportunities and education than us, we cannot refrain from taking action now,” he concluded.

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