Stories: Estivaliz Arroyo

By Esti Arroyo


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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Butterflies are known as a symbol of transformation because of the process of metamorphosis. Before sharing my story, I felt as if I was in a cocoon. I have long awaited my liberation. Now that I’ve shared my story, I finally feel free.

I usually tend to stay away from oversharing my personal life on social media. I guess you could otherwise say I’ve shared every aspect of my life: accomplishments, milestones, photographs, and relationships.

Yet, I haven’t publicly shared my biggest secret of all; I am a DACA recipient. Twenty-four years ago, I left my home in Mexico and came to the United States in search of the American Dream. My parents wanted me to have the best education and opportunities that life had to offer.
Today, I decided to share my story because of the latest attempt by the Department of Homeland Security to end DACA. Before today, I was hesitant to share it due to fear, judgment, and embarrassment; however, I can no longer go on pretending my life and future aren’t in limbo due to this.

I grew up in a predominantly white community and assimilated quickly to American culture. I stood for the National Anthem with my peers every morning before school. I grew up watching Arthur, Mr. Rogers, and listening to Britney Spears, ‘N Sync, and Spice Girls. In junior high school, I cheered for our local American Football team. I went to dances with my friends at my school and recreational center. In high school, I played lacrosse and lived the most memorable times of my life. I was your average teenager living the American Dream.

Although I was able to live a somewhat ordinary life, I was still fearful and confined before DACA. I wasn’t able to share the same milestones as my peers growing up. For example, I couldn’t get a driver’s license when I turned sixteen, like my friends. I had to lie that my parents wouldn’t allow me to drive until I turned eighteen. Furthermore, when we graduated high school, my friends invited me on a cruise, which I could not attend. I blamed it on my parents being overprotective and that we couldn’t afford it.

My path quickly changed after graduating from high school. At that time, DACA didn’t exist; therefore, I couldn’t go away due to my status. My high school counselor told me that I didn’t have a future here. I also doubted it. I watched all my friends go off to college while I attended my local community college. I felt unmotivated and disappointed. My parents stayed on me to continue my studies, but I rebelled because I knew I couldn’t work even if I went to school.

My life quickly changed for the better when President Barack Obama announced the creation of DACA. It was a program that would allow me to work and pursue my dreams. I promptly enrolled at DePaul University and started working at a law firm. Financial aid wasn’t available to DACA students, but that wouldn’t stop me. I decided to finance my education by working full time during the day and attending courses at night.

My parents also sacrificed their life savings to help me. I still vividly remember one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. My dad had saved enough money to pay off their house, but I needed money for school, and without hesitation, my dad gave it to me. Thankfully, during my last quarter of school, my friend helped me by co-signing a private student loan. I had a little more financial freedom but still worked full time to gain experience in my field.

After all my hard work and dedication, I was able to graduate. It was such an honor because I was the first woman in my family to do so. I also quickly excelled within my field and received so many kind remarks from my employers. My journey didn’t end there, though. In 2018, I attended Loyola University, where I obtained a paralegal certificate in corporate and litigation practice. This time, I paid for it all on my own by working full time and attending classes at night again.

Today, I am fortunate enough to work at a Fortune 100 company, but now my future is in jeopardy again. I am fighting every single day to stay in a country that I consider my only home. In my eyes, I’ve done everything to be a “good” immigrant; I pay taxes, received degrees, paid off my student loan, and stayed out of legal trouble, yet it isn’t enough.

In September of 2017, the current administration decided to rescind DACA and proceeded through years of litigation that reached the Supreme Court. On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in favor (5–4 ) of DACA recipients. As I am writing this today, the Department of Homeland Security has released a new memorandum reducing the deferred action duration from two years to one. As a result, after my current DACA status expires, I will lose my protective status within one year instead of two, and be at risk of deportation.

Although the policies are turning against me, I will remain resilient and hopeful for a permanent resolution.

Post first featured on Medium: Esti Arroyo: My DACA Story

About the Author
Esti Arroyo