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Members of the United We Dream organization participate in a demonstration outside of the U.S. District Courthouse on July 19, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

From Honduras to New Orleans, Without a Safe Path Forwards

We need to immediately expand the number of immigrants who receive DACA protection—immigrants who, like myself, simply want to be able to focus on bettering themselves and their family without the possibility of being deported.

Dariel Duarte

I grew up in Honduras with my grandparents, as my mom came to the United States years prior with the dream of setting up a better life for me and my younger brothers. Five years ago, when I was 17 years old, I was in the middle of school classes when I received a text from her asking "Are you ready to come to the US next week?" She had arranged for a coyote. I managed to cross the border by car, inflatable raft and walking, and once stateside, immediately crossed paths with border patrol who took me to a detention center in McAllen, Texas. There was only one bathroom for 75 people, the food offered was terrible. They gave me an aluminum cover wrap, but it did nothing to keep away the bitter cold. I was released after a day and a half and sent to a shelter in Miami, and then to Metairie, New Orleans where I reunited with my mom. We were able to hug for the first time since I was six years old.  

Although we've done everything we can to assimilate here and be self-sustainable, we could still be deported at any time, our now-reunited family ripped apart.

For someone like me, it was never possible to fly or to drive across the border. A visa was impossible. I could never have entered the country normally to be able to see my mom. At the moment, I'm undocumented. I don't have anything right now that helps me in my day-to-day life here, like a driver's license or a social security card. I have applied for asylum, which cost me $5000—but so far we don't have enough money for my younger brothers to apply. That's why programs such as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are so important—they give protection for young immigrants to be able to stay by family and work towards building a solid, productive future in the United States. Yet we need more. Congress needs to pass a new version of the Budget Reconciliation Bill (BRB) with a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and the millions of other undocumented immigrants trapped in the United States with no avenue to legalize. 

My mom has done well for herself here. Immigrants are much more likely to start businesses than the U.S.-born and my mom follows that trend—she owns her own business at the French Market.  She has made sure to educate us well here. When I arrived I didn't speak a word of English, but she enrolled me in high school anyway where I went on to take classes in the next two and a half years like Geometry, Algebra 2, American History and English. Like approximately 98,000 other undocumented immigrants that graduate high school every year in the US, I was a proud graduate in 2019. I loved learning everything I could.

Yet although we've done everything we can to assimilate here and be self-sustainable, we could still be deported at any time, our now-reunited family ripped apart. In 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE ) together carried out 337,287 removals of unauthorized immigrants, a 17% increase from the previous year, according to the Department of Homeland Security

With my current status, I'm not protected in basic ways. We used to live in an apartment, but two years ago, my mom moved to a house and I decided to stay in the apartment. I was there until the pandemic. I didn't work for three months and the landlords told me to move. They took me to court and the judge told me you have literally one day to move. I thought you couldn't get evicted during the pandemic. Every person in the United States is protected by the Fair Housing Act. Supposedly, a person's immigration status does not affect his or her federal fair housing rights or responsibilities—but that was definitely not the case in my personal experience. 

Since I moved from Honduras to New Orleans I have lived so many experiences and have learned so many things I wouldn't have been able to learn in Honduras, There are so many things I still want to learn. My goal after graduating from high school was to go to college, but undocumented, I wasn't able to do so. It's much more expensive for education—no in-state tuition is available for me as an immigrant in Louisiana—and I wasn't working. Right now, I'm working construction under the table and I do plan on saving money to be able to go to college. My mom is always telling me to be strong and always stay positive and I think that's good advice.

Politics aside, I feel my story is simple. I, like many Americans, have a mother who only wants the best for her sons. I want to work to support myself and my family. I want to have a driver's license to be able to drive myself to work. I want to be able to attend college in my state and pay the same amount that everyone I went to high school with pays. According to the Migration Policy Institute, as of March 2021 there are 616,030 active DACA recipients who are legally protected from deportation, but that is less than half of us young immigrants in the US who should be immediately eligible. 

We need to immediately expand the number of immigrants who receive DACA protection— immigrants who, like myself, simply want to be able to focus on bettering themselves and their family without the possibility of being deported. The best way to do so? Pass a new version of the Budget Reconciliation Bill—with provisions to permanently protect Dreamers, once and for all. 

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