GRAND RAPIDS, MI – At 8 years old, Kevin Vazquez did not know what it meant to live in the shadows.
It was at that age he was brought to live in the United States from his home in Guadalajara, Mexico.
But as a 27-year-old undocumented immigrant, Vazquez knows that feeling all too well – and does not want to go back to it. Living under the constant threat of deportation, job limitations and educational delays are just some of the problems he has faced.
But Vazquez says a piece of paper changed the trajectory of his life, opening opportunities that did not always seem as possible as they did for some of his classmates at East Kentwood High School. As a member of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Vazquez is protected from deportation and eligible for a work permit.
It has been five years since former President Barack Obama signed the executive order for the DACA program, which temporarily shields some young undocumented immigrants from deportation, allowing them to work legally, obtain a driver’s license and study.
Life before DACA status
”Between 2009 and 2013, I didn’t have any documentation and those were, hands-down, the most difficult periods of my life,” Vazquez said.
“Living in fear is just not living at all.”
The Trump administration has sent mixed messages about DACA. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he would end the “illegal executive order” for DACA recipients, sometimes known as “Dreamers.” The term refers to the 2001 proposed DREAM Act that would have granted them legal status.
The president is being lobbied to, alternately, preserve the program and fulfill his campaign to end it. But media outlets reported on Friday, Aug. 25, he is likely to end the program soon.
Vazquez, a recent Grand Rapids Community College graduate, will be working on a bachelor’s degree in organizational communications at Western Michigan University this fall.
“I really believe I belong in the U.S. and am I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to show that and contribute in a positive way,” Vazquez said.
“This is an issue for all immigrants and future immigrants of this country.”
By Monica Scoot for MICHIGAN LIVE
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