Raleigh ‘Dreamer’ reflects on DACA and the future of politics

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Jocelyn Casanova, 26, has lived in Raleigh since she was 4 years old. She crossed the US-Mexico border with her parents through the Texas desert.

Today, she’s a software engineer at Pendo in downtown Raleigh. It’s a job she was able to accept thanks to the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allows immigrants who were brought to the United States then that they were children to work legally in the country.

Casanova spoke with The News & Observer about when she learned she was not a legal and permanent resident of the United States, when she applied for DACA, and her hopes for the future of politics controversial immigration. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

“I was undocumented”

“Growing up I had a lot of nightmares about being left in the desert or just getting lost. I didn’t know what they meant or what they were talking about until the day before I graduated. high school – when I found out I was undocumented.

“Everything made sense and clicked.

“I was applying to college: I was a straight student and president of many clubs in high school. But during a university interview, I was asked to provide my social security number.

“Until then, no one had ever asked me that. I hadn’t had a job before or just didn’t really have a reason to provide [a Social Security number]. And I couldn’t provide one, unfortunately. The college recruiter told me that they were unable to accept me due to lack of legal documentation, but once “I figured that out” to contact them again.

“I called my mom right away and said, ‘Hey, what’s a social security number, and where can I get it?’ She was like, ‘Oh, we’ll talk when you get home.’ And I’m like, ‘OK.’

“I came home and she sort of explained everything to me, on the spot. That I was not born here. That I was born in Veracruz, Mexico, and they brought me here at a young age, because we were very poor. The area we come from has a lot of crime, violence and human trafficking, and my parents didn’t want me to go through that and wanted me to have a better chance.

“At that time, I wasn’t mad at them at all. I was super grateful to them. But at the same time, I felt like my whole world was torn apart beneath me.

“Before that, my plan was to go to university. I had even obtained (partial) scholarships in some private universities. But I didn’t really know who to contact, how to go about it, and getting a loan was out of the question given the [financial] limitations we had.

“DACA came out in 2012 and it was 2014 so I was able to apply.”

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Jocelyn Casanova, 26, is pictured at Pendo’s office in Raleigh, North Carolina, Friday, June 3, 2022. Casanova, who started in the DACA program in 2014, works as a senior technical engineer for Pendo. Kaitlin McKeown [email protected]

A permanent solution

“For a very long time, I had a lot of trepidation about telling others I had DACA because I was afraid they would look at me the wrong way. Or, you know, that I would feel really discriminated against by them.

“I wouldn’t tell anyone. It’s not something you can bring up easily in a conversation and it’s, like, a very complicated question to explain.

“When I have the opportunity to share my story, I do so because I want others to know that I am more than just a number. And if anything, I want to continue contributing to this economy, at this place. So this is the house.

“I’m not here to take anything away from anyone. I just want to keep adding to what has already been built.

“Most of us, when we first apply to DACA, we’re kids, like teenagers. And the majority of us are now adults, building careers or starting families, you know? Life is very different now than when we started this whole process.

“It’s been 10 years, 10 years of chronic anxiety, not knowing if we can stay here tomorrow.

“I hope and pray that we find at least some kind of permanent solution next year. And if not, an exact path of what it would look like [to become a citizen] or the steps to follow to have a way to stay here.

“We want to continue to create a life here in America, and it’s very difficult with the limitations that we have. Some of us want to go to school, and it’s hard to pay for it. We cannot apply for federal assistance. Others of us try to apply for home loans. And again, that’s also a limitation for us, and we can’t do that.

“They’ve seen us grow over the years, you know, so I don’t know how much longer they expect to keep us in limbo.

“We have proven ourselves over the past 10 years. And I think it’s only just in time that we get some sort of solution.

“I think it’s very important that other people who have DACA know that it’s okay to be yourself and not to be ashamed because DACA is part of our history, our past. , our present and our future.

“It’s still very difficult day by day, but know that you are not alone because united, we are strong. And one day things will work out. »

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Laura Brache is a reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, covering the effects of changing demographics on various communities in the region. She is a multilingual multimedia journalist from North Carolina, born in Massachusetts and raised in the Dominican Republic.

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