Editorial: Ni de aquí, ni de allá

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There’s a saying among the Mexican immigrant community: Ni de aquí, ni de allá.

Not from here, not from there.

Many immigrants are bilingual but are told to “get back to their country” if every word they speak isn’t all-American English. Many came to the U.S. at a young enough age that they don’t remember anywhere else. Many have never been back to the country their parents left.  

This is a contentious issue. Without first-hand experiences, it’s difficult to fully understand the complexities of immigrant life. Because of this, The Brown and White editorial board decided to find someone who does.

Imagine.

You suddenly wake up in your parent’s arms, wrapped in a blanket that protects you from chill and dust. You realize you’re in the desert.

Looking up, you see your parents’ faces: sleep-deprived, filled with fear, worry and just a hint of hope as they continue walking away from Quiroga, Mexico. Putting their worries aside, they calm you until you fall back asleep.

You will never remember this event. You were 13 months old.

Ni de aquí, ni de allá.

June 15, 2012. You’ve lived in North Carolina since you first crossed the border years ago.

President Obama signs a sheet of paper granting you and 1.1 million others protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. It is an ordeal just to apply.

Requirements: Must have entered the U.S. before age 16. Must provide significant evidence you were in the U.S. upon DACA’s announcement. Must pay a $495 fee every two years. All those “bad hombres” you’ve heard about in the news? Must have a clean criminal record.

Many undocumented immigrants seek lawyers for clarity, but your family doesn’t have the money to hire one or the time away from work to help you. You complete the DACA application process by yourself.

You receive a driver’s license with bright red letters indicating your “legal presence.” Your parents are not as lucky — North Carolina does not grant licenses to undocumented immigrants unprotected by DACA.

If they don’t drive, they can’t work. They can’t support their family. They can’t even go grocery shopping without worrying about making a mistake that could put their whole lives in jeopardy.

Being in the wrong place at the right time can land them a ticket. A ticket leads to court, court leads to Immigration Services and Immigration Services leads to deportation. They drive anyway.

Ni de aquí, ni de allá.

Fall 2016. A great big pile of leaves decorates the porch as you sit inside your room finalizing college applications. You’re nervous — the uncertainty of waiting for program acceptances consumes you.

One by one, you hear back from your schools: five public, five private. Ten acceptance letters. You’re ecstatic.

You open the letters. All five public schools are immediately off the table. Federal aid is not given to undocumented students. North Carolina won’t even allow you to pay in-state tuition.

Combing through acceptance letters from the private schools, you notice a brown and white crest. Lehigh. The administration decided to help you pay for your undergraduate degree, taking a gamble on you as a capable student willing to work hard.

You are determined. You know you’ll take the opportunity given and do everything you can to make the most of your new home.

Ni de aquí, ni de allá.

Sept. 5, 2017. 7 p.m. Students shuffle out of Linderman Library to go home after hours of work before making the most difficult decision of their day: Go out or stay in?

While throwing out their trash, someone catches a glimpse of you sitting on the front lawn, deep in thought. They think nothing of it and continue on their way.

You’ve had a very different night. While everyone is planning what they’ll be doing for the next few hours, you’re planning what you’ll be doing in the next six months before the DACA repeal goes into full effect.

Two weeks ago, you had four years at Lehigh and an illustrious career ahead of you. Now, you don’t know what to expect tomorrow. 

Ni de aquí, ni de allá.

It’s difficult to do schoolwork. It’s difficult to adjust to living away from home for the first time. It’s difficult to make it to the end of each day before remembering what happened on Sept. 5.

The people at school generally treat you the same as they would’ve two weeks ago, but an air of doubt arises whenever you read social media.

An endless stream of news articles about DACA. Facebook groups fighting on both sides of the issue. Tweets comparing your immigration status to breaking into someone’s home and living there.

“Why don’t you go through the legal immigration process?” you hear someone ask. “Why don’t you do it the right way?”

There isn’t a guaranteed legal immigration process. You claim citizenship through employment, family reunification or humanitarian protection. None of these apply specifically to DACA recipients with parents living in the U.S.

Ni de aquí, ni de allá.

Why don’t you just go home?

Ni de aquí, ni de allá.

The only thing that separates you from “fellow” Americans is your DACA status. You have interests, quirks, things that annoy you, and dreams as much as anyone else in this country.

You might be undocumented, but everything about you is American. It’s what you’ve always been and it’s what you’ll always be.

De aquí, y de allá. From here, from there.

This is the story of Julio, one of Lehigh’s DACA students. Without first-hand accounts like his, the impact of the DACA repeal might be lost on those who aren’t personally affected.

Real people benefited greatly from the establishment of DACA. Real people are losing their opportunity for a good life with its repeal.

“All of us work hard,” Julio told us. “All of us try to be good Americans, good people, good citizens, good neighbors. We are people just like everybody else. At the end of the day, whether it’s a political thing or not, this is a moral issue. It’s a human rights issue. We need people to want to make things change. I think I’d like for other people to know, to act and to support the DACA community — we’re just like everybody else. We have emotions, we have family. That’s why we’re here. My parents wanted me to have an education. They wanted me to progress beyond whatever they left behind in Mexico. We believe in the American dream. We are the American dream and people need to see that.”

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    Write your congressman so that a law can be passed to do the right thing to allow DACA individuals become legal citizens.

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