I came to the US when I was only 2 years old. Without action from Congress, I could be deported to a country I've never known.

  • There are 2.1 million Dreamers in this country. 
  • Dreamers should not have to live in uncertainty. 
  • DACA recipients are calling on lawmakers to pass the American Dream and Promise Act. 
  • Karen Reyes came to the US when she was two years old. She now lives in Austin, Texas, and works as a special education teacher.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I am a DACA recipient. I am one of 2.1 million Dreamers in this country. While we share many of the same concerns, we are not the same. We are all unique in our experiences, stories, and jobs. Some of us are health care workers on the frontlines fighting the coronavirus, some of us are in the food service industry, and some of us are teachers. But there are two things we hold in common: the love we have for the only country we have called home, and the fear of us being taken from it. While DACA has given us some protection against deportations, the last four years have shown us that the threat of being removed from this country is still there.

With the American Dream and Promise Act having just passed the House, and a president ready and willing to sign it, the end to that constant worry feels closer than ever.

If this bill is signed into law, it will allow undocumented immigrants or Dreamers brought to the US as children to earn permanent resident status and eventual citizenship. It also includes a path to citizenship for at least 300,000 people with temporary protected status or Deferred Enforced Departure. There is harmful anti-immigrant rhetoric that flourished under the Trump administration, and there is a case in Texas challenging the legality of the program. But this bill says Dreamers are here to say. 

For many years, Dreamers have lived in a state of anxiety. We have lived with worries about the fate of DACA, whether we’ll be deported, and whether our families will be protected. Under the Biden Administration, DACA recipients have been given some sense of relief, but if the American Dream and Promise Act does not pass the Senate, Dreamers like me will continue to live in uncertainty. 

I came to the US when I was two years old in 1991 with my mom. We settled in San Antonio, where I grew up. Like many Dreamers, I didn’t know I was undocumented, but there were clues about my status. My mom was wary of police officers and traveling, for instance. I found out that I was undocumented when my mom told me I couldn’t take part on a trip to the Mexico border with my high school friends because I didn’t have “papers.” A few years later, I got my undergraduate degree in education and planned to become a teacher. 

I started graduate school in 2012 but questioned whether I would be able to work as an educator. Then, a couple of weeks later, DACA was announced. I was driving home from picking up a textbook, and my mom called and told me that President Obama had announced that immigrants who came to this country at a young age and have no ties to their country of origin may remain in the US and work without fear of deportation. We both cried on the phone. It meant that I could work in the field that I love, drive without fear, and live without the threat of deportation. 

The Biden administration is a welcome relief after years of attacks on our immigrant community. Many undocumented folks experience wage theft — being underpaid, or exploited for their labor — food insecurity, and financial insecurity because they don’t qualify for stimulus checks and  other forms of government assistance.

The Dream Act is a way to provide a pathway toward citizenship for millions of Dreamers,  who many elected officials say they support. But I’ve learned that you can’t just hope for things to change. Dreamers like me will continue to fight for all immigrants, but now is the time for the Senate to finally take this major first step, and pass the American Dream and Promise Act.

Karen Reyes is a special education teacher in Austin, Texas. Reyes joined her union, AFT, in a lawsuit by the NAACP against Trump over DACA filed in 2018.

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