Tennessee State University students Jose Lazo and Kristifer Kremer talk about DACA and what it means to them.
My name is Jose Lazo and I am a Dreamer.
My eighth birthday was the saddest day of my life. There was no party, no piñata, no chorus of friends and family singing “feliz cumpleaños a ti.”
Just a couple months prior, I was uprooted from everything I had ever known – my school, my friends, my family – to begin a two-month journey out of central America, through Mexico and across the U.S. border into Brownsville, Texas, to escape what little was left of my home after the Salvadoran Civil War.
Up to that point, I hadn’t understood what was happening, but on my eighth birthday it finally clicked: I was here now – starting completely over. Nothing would ever be the same.
Soon after my birthday, my family moved to Tennessee. I started public school where I struggled to make friends and learn English. I remember standing up every morning to say the Pledge of Alliance but not really knowing what it meant. Looking back, it’s funny to remember that I was once a complete foreigner in a country that I now call home.
With time, things got easier. By high school, I was thriving. I held a leadership position in my school’s JROTC program – an armed force training program sponsored by the U.S. military. I was president of the Beta club and earned my Eagle Scout ranking in Boy Scouts. But most importantly, I applied for and received DACA status.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, safeguards immigrants who were brought to the United States as children if they are actively working or in school.
When I was 8 years old, learning that I was staying in America was the worst day of my life. But when I was 16, it was the happiest. Thanks to DACA, I’m a lot like all of you. I’m able to make memories with my family, like our tradition of going to the Wilson County Fair every summer. I’m also able to be at TSU studying political science and competing on the speech and debate team where I get the opportunity to represent TSU on both the state and national levels.
But since President Trump announced his decision to rescind DACA, my life has been filled with anxiety. I made the heartbreaking decision to quit the debate team, as traveling to out-of-state tournaments brings me increased risk of deportation. I frequently worry that my parents and I will get deported – leaving behind my 12-year-old native born sister is my greatest fear.
I’m not the only person who lives with this anxiety. There are other Dreamers here at TSU. And there are 800,000 of us nationwide.
I ask that we as a university – as students, faculty, staff and administration – strive to continuing making TSU a welcoming and inclusive campus for immigrants. It hurts when people say that we are unwelcome in this country. I am proud of my Salvadoran roots. And I am also proud to consider myself American
My name is Kristifer Kremer and I am a native-born American citizen. I met Jose when we were 14 years old. I never really saw him as any different than myself. After all, we went to the same high school and took the same classes. We were involved in the same extra-curricular activities, and actually earned our Eagle Scout badges from the same troop at the same time. We had similar interests, we and spent our time in-between classes and on weekends talking about music and watching movies.
It was only about a year into our friendship when Jose told me he was an immigrant. I didn’t really think anything of it; he was my best friend and it didn’t matter to me where he came from.
I know that there are a lot of Americans, including those in legislative leadership positions, who think that Jose shouldn’t be allowed to live in America just because he wasn’t born here. But I am confident that if they knew him they would change their minds.
Jose played such a formative role in my adolescence, and I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like without him – I don’t want to imagine what my life would be like if he were forced to leave it now.
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