Thank you, Karen Hollis:
""I am a Dreamer. I have lived in the United States since 1995. I plan to self-deport in early 2020.
I grew up in Carson City, Nev., from kindergarten until I left for college in Reno. I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember. I participated in local soccer leagues as a kid. I pledged allegiance to the American flag. This is the country I call home.
Because of circumstances beyond my control, I am undocumented. I was born in Toronto and was brought to the United States at age 5 by my parents, who were refugees from Afghanistan. I am one of the approximately 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in America today. As a result, I have lived my life in perpetual limbo — and in the shadows.
When I turned 18, I watched my friends vote in the 2008 presidential elections and could not do the same. I could not receive federal financial aid for colleges that other prospective students applied for. I watched my classmates get jobs and obtain a driver’s licenses, but I could not work or drive legally.
When President Barack Obama introduced DACA at his Rose Garden speech in June 2012, he said: “This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.” However, DACA was immediately met with criticism from the right that it is unconstitutional, an improper use of executive powers or some form of amnesty. I and all DACA recipients remain caught in the middle.
DACA changed my life. In May 2012, I graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a double major in international affairs and French. I was worried, uncertain and ready to leave the country. There were zero possibilities for me to work legally. Serendipitously, President Obama introduced DACA the next month, so I decided to stay. Until then, I had no idea what future I could have. My dream was to pursue a career in human rights and international affairs. I saw that as an absolute pipe dream, because someone with undocumented status cannot freely travel abroad.
Under DACA, I obtained my driver’s license. I later earned my master’s degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. While I was a graduate student, I interned for former Senate majority leader Harry Reid. I eventually found work in Washington, where I am pursuing a career at an NGO promoting the transparency and accountability of governments throughout the world. I could even travel abroad for work purposes. This has been a lifeline, for which I am grateful. But DACA is not a permanent fix.
While I once felt hopeful about a future here in my country, my hopes have been shattered repeatedly. There were many close calls for a permanent solution, yet my very existence in my country remains in jeopardy.
In 2010, the Dream Act, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants, was proposed during a lame-duck session. It passed the House, but it was just five votes shy of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the Senate. Those five votes cost me my future as an American.
In 2012, when DACA was introduced, I thought it could be a steppingstone to having permanent status. However in September 2017, the Trump administration announced its plans to terminate DACA by March 5, 2018 — though injunctions from lower courts allowed applications to still be received. Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, but with a conservative-leaning court, there is greater potential for DACA to end.
This is why I am leaving the United States. I am 29. I have waited 24 years for a solution. Like all DACA recipients, I have been living my life in two-year increments — the duration of my temporary status. I will no longer keep waiting for the idea of a pathway to citizenship.
In my case, being undocumented is a civil violation. Undocumented immigrants who self-deport after spending over 180 days in the United States face a three-year bar on re-entry, while those like me who have spent over a year in the country are barred for 10 years. For trying to find a solution to an untenable situation and freedom from uncertainty, I will be banished.
Leaving the United States is deeply saddening. The 10-year bar is the most painful aspect, as I will not be able to visit family and friends. I cannot attend graduations, weddings or funerals. I will especially miss my grandmother — who helped raise me and is my best friend — as I don’t know how often I will see her after I depart. If I stay, I’m waiting on the Supreme Court decision: I will either be able to continue my life in limbo as a DACA recipient or my status will phase out.
Congress has the ability to remove these bars, a remnant from the Clinton era, which would open up pathways for possible return. It would, for instance, allow for employment sponsorship, visas to continue working in the fields in which we’ve made inroads. And most important, it would allow us to reunite with our families, friends and neighbors. It would mean we could come back “legally.” Two Democratic presidential candidates, Julián Castro and Elizabeth Warren, have pledged to remove the bars under their immigration proposals. They would have to petition Congress to do so.
Depending on the outcome of the 2020 elections, there could be a push for immigration legislation, but whether it will include DACA recipients, piecemeal or comprehensively, I do not know. It’s not guaranteed anything will pass. No one knows what might happen, but I do know that I’ve become exhausted by putting my life on hold for a promise of permanent status that might never be fulfilled.
The ugly politics of the United States leave me with no desirable choice. I no longer wish to be a bargaining chip for a border wall. I am no longer willing to be another sob story to win votes. I can no longer go to bed every night with the anxiety of such an unsecure future. But I am privileged that by chance I was born in a high-income country to which I can easily return. I am privileged to have the agency to leave.
Isn’t that the great irony? To live the American dream of opportunity and autonomy, I must leave."
The U.S. Supreme Court has designed Oct. 8 as the date when it will hear arguments on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to cases of anti-LGBT discrimination, setting up a showdown for when LGBT rights in all areas of life will hang in the balance.