DACA beneficiaries are anxious, angry and afraid

SHARE DACA beneficiaries are anxious, angry and afraid

Angelica Magana, 32, an undocumented immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, and Mateo Uribe Rios, 24, an undocumented immigrant from Medellin, Columbia, were at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights center on Tuesday. | Taylor Hartz/Sun-Times

It was late at night and they had to be quiet. But Angelica Magana wasn’t scared. As the 8-year-old walked through the desert she was proud to “go to the other side” — that’s what they called it in Jalisco, Mexico, when her family crossed the border. But today, Magana is scared. And she is angry.

Today, she and her two sisters are unsure of their future here in Illinois, where they have lived since they left their grandfather’s farm and climbed into a car with a group of strangers, bound for the border.

Her sisters are confused, they don’t know what will happen when their DACA work permits expire. Magana is angry, energized and focused, but she is “offended most of all,” that President Donald Trump did not deliver the news himself.

Though she isn’t sure if she will be able to renew her work permit, which expires Dec. 17, Magana, 32, said that she survived before Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and she will survive again.

“DACA has always been a Band-Aid,” Magana said.

For some, that Band-Aid has been a more like a lifejacket.

Mateo Uribe Rios married his wife just two months ago, fearing his fate as an undocumented immigrant. Faced with renewing DACA or applying for a green card through his marriage, he said, “Right now DACA is what’s keeping us afloat.”

Uribe Rios came to the U.S. when he was only 6, but his eyes filled with tears when he spoke of Colombia. “I dream about it all the time, I have so many memories,” Uribe Rios said. He remembers Christmas in his the neighborhood nestled between two mountains in Medellin, and he remembers fireflies floating through the greenery.

But he has not been back since he and his mother left on a tourist visa, and his father on a work visa. When their visas expired, they stayed.

Since childhood, Uribe Rios has been undocumented, and his eyes welled up again when he recalled the pain this status has caused. For years, the 24-year-old graduate student at the University of Chicago has struggled with the feeling that he is in the way, that he doesn’t belong. His home is here, his parents are proud Chicagoans, but he hasn’t been able to shake the thought that he isn’t wanted in the country he calls home.

Wracked with anxiety over his own fate, and the fate of so many saved from deportation by DACA, he has struggled increasingly with self-harm, and self-hatred in recent months. A lot of his feelings, he said, have surfaced from “Actual legitimate validation from the government that says you don’t belong here.”

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