President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on the promise, among others, to get rid of President Obama’s program that offered a temporary reprieve to so-called dreamers — immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children. But in a recent interview with Time magazine, Trump said he wants to “work something out” to help dreamers.
Commentator Angelica Merino Monge is one of many people anxiously waiting to see what’s next. At 22 years old, Monge has lived in the United States over half her life.
In El Salvador, my mother worked as a seamstress, raising three little children on her own. She felt she needed to remove us from the gang violence happening everywhere around us. So many people were trying to flee the country that visas were essentially impossible to get. Mom’s only option was to hire a "coyote" to lead us to the Mexico-U.S. border. To get there, my mother, my brother and I walked and rode with strangers for about two weeks. I was 10.
Without Social Security numbers, the only jobs available to my mother were under the table and paid under minimum wage. Getting a driver’s license without papers was impossible. Also health insurance. We were constantly frightened of being deported. It was hard.
But then, once I’d graduated high school, I was also going to have to come up with the money to pay for college. Without documentation, I was considered an international student, which meant I had to pay out-of-state tuition. To make enough to afford two classes, I needed to work close to 40 hours a week. And each time I came to school, it took two hours by bus.
When I was 18, my mother found a better job in Maryland and moved there. Suddenly I needed also to pay for my rent and food. I thought I’d probably have to quit school altogether.
But then Obama signed the executive order known as DACA, designed to protect and grant some rights to immigrant youth who’d come to the United States as children. Finally, I was safe. Finally, I was able to get a work permit and a driver’s license and an in-state tuition bill.
Now I attend school full time. I’ve received an award for outstanding work in political science. I also volunteer weekly, teaching literacy to migrant farm workers.
My story, in essence, is the story of millions of immigrants over hundreds of years who’ve come to the United States hoping for a better life. Once here, they’ve lived honorably.
We work hard. We give back. Our lives are here. We want to stay.
Commentator Angelica Merino Monge attends Holyoke Community College and hopes to go on to earn her B.A. at one of the Five Colleges next fall.