When I first got the notification of the president’s plans to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, I was walking to class. I waited a few hours until I could read the news with a clear head. Although I have the privilege of being one generation removed from the difficulties that come with immigration, I could not prevent a somewhat emotional reaction.
Immediately, I thought of my father who was brought to the United States when he was only seven years old. My whole life, I have grown up knowing that the long application process, the years of waiting and the distance my family members put between themselves and their homes in El Salvador was made based on a set of difficult realities. At the time, there was even a possibility — young as he was — that my father could be drafted into the military.
I then thought of my other family members who have worked so hard to earn the lives they have now. My tio (uncle) has only just recently reunited with his family after working in this country for years, trying desperately to earn enough money to be able to sponsor his children and wife. Although he and the rest of my immediate family went through the process legally, it cost them years of heartache, knowing that their children were going to grow up without them indefinitely.
To my father, this is his home. He has known no other, or at the very least, remembers no other. For the students,
workers and families affected by DACA, their lives were similarly tossed upside down by a new country. After so many years without visiting, my father’s and my family’s stories of El Salvador seem to me like a dream.
William and Mary has always been, in my opinion, a place for these dreamers. Our students live on a plot of history, ready to make their own history out of whatever circumstances they may come from. Coming into this school with its majority of white students and its limited socioeconomic diversity is brave. Even on a good day, coming from such a starkly different background makes me feel out of place. I cannot imagine how it must feel to one day be worrying about classes and the price of textbooks to suddenly be told that this school — which was so hard to get to, which is so hard to do well in — could be torn away.
William and Mary has always been, in my opinion, a place for these dreamers. Our students live on a plot of history, ready to make their own history out of whatever circumstances they may come from.
Everyone in this school, no matter their background, had to work to get here. Some people, because of their race, class and other marginalizing factors, had to work much harder. The dreamers are among that group of students who put their whole selves into their education. Being the daughter of an immigrant, I can hear my father’s and my abuela’s voices in my head when I get papers back and when I think about my future. Being a student here means that I have been given the opportunity to take my family’s struggle and make the best of it. Their hard work and efforts to learn English have led me here, to this school.
I am proud to be at the College, and every day I carry the weight of knowing that someone else worked so hard for me to have this chance at a great education. For my fellow students and peers who are now living in an unstable in-between, I want to offer my apologies that the country we know as home is failing us. If you ever need to talk to a friend, please email me. At the very least, I know I can offer a friendly voice, though I’m sure this is little consolation. I hope that this community of students will come together to show you that, though our experiences differ by chance, our support will never waver.
Email Kiana Espinoza at firstname.lastname@example.org.