My name is Jorge Penaranda and I am American in every way, except on paper. I am also a dreamer, with the exception that my legal status says otherwise. My story in this wonderful country began in 2002, when my parents, under an E2 visa, decided to move to America in hopes of providing my brother and I a better future. Here in America I walked home from Omni middle school every day, I went to prom at Spanish River High School, and I met my best friends throughout these 15 years. However, despite my complete cultural assimilation, I could not be more detached from American citizenship. Children brought here legally have a race against time to get their green cards before they turn 21, or they face significantly reducing their chances to stay in this country. I lost that race, and when I turned 21, I had to become an international student overnight, as I was no longer allowed to fall under my parents’ visa.
I attended Emory University’s Goizueta Business School under a full-tuition academic scholarship, so I was hopeful that despite this immigration setback, I would be able to compete for the limited H1B visa slots with other international students. Unfortunately, I did not make the entirely random lottery system, so today I find myself on my third degree, still fighting to remain home. In 2012, Obama enacted DACA, with the rationale that children under this program were brought by their parents, and the only home that they know is America. Based on this premise I figured that this executive order would provide me an easier way towards citizenship, but the program had one caveat: being here unlawfully. It may sound ironic, but both DACA and the Democrat Dream Act both require one to be here unlawfully in order to qualify. I meet every single other provision in the bill but am inexplicably excluded due to being here legally.
This omission has meant not being able to work (unlike dreamers who have work permits), compounded with the fact that I have to pay extremely expensive international student tuition. Due to the huge economic strain of my situation, I only have 6 months left here, as I will not become an illegal alien, and cannot continue to afford to pay for degrees that I do not need. A viewpoint that I often hear is that unlike dreamers I do not have the fear of being deported, but I argue that I certainly do. You see, 6 months from now, I will be “deported”, and I put quotations around the word because the only difference is that I’m being kicked out by the system, and not by agents. I am also being driven out of my home. If the basis of support for dreamers, DACA & Dream Act is that dreamers were brought here as children, these bills need to help all children, both here lawfully and unlawfully. By requiring applicants to be out of status to qualify, these programs are inadvertently penalizing children who have fought to remain here legally.
People like myself have to be included in any DACA legislation, as it most accurately reflects our immigration story, and we also deserve a chance to remain home. I’m sure that our omission from these programs was not done purposely, but simply the reason is that there are too few of us to have our voices heard. Thankfully, some members of Congress have taken note of this issue and we have been included in some Republican dreamer bills such as the Hr 1468 by Carlos Curbelo and S2199 by Jeff Flake. We hope that we are granted the same opportunity as dreamers to work and remain home in the upcoming spending bill, as E2 dreamers like myself and they are virtually indistinguishable.
Memphis immigration Project exists to engage issues of Immigration from a biblical perspective.