“My Life Would Be Completely Different” – Reflections On 10 Years Of DACA
By John-Michael Torres, June 29, 2022
teenage girl wearing a shirt with the Dr Pepper logo sits on a porch with a small dog in her lap.

DACA allowed Mercedes youth to graduate college, travel country, meet husband

The DACA program turned 10 years old this June 15th, 2022. LUPE members who were granted the program in 2012 have experienced 10 years of protection from deportation and work permits. They’ve also experienced 10 years of living life in 2-year increments, uncertain of their future without permanent protection and a path to citizenship.

One of the first LUPE members to receive DACA took a look back on the impact DACA had on her life these past 10 years. Iara Arai Kirchner shares her reflections on 10 years of DACA below.

My family moved from Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas to the Rio Grande Valley in 2002 when I was four years old. My parents, little sister and I left our comfortable middle-class life in Mexico and moved into my aunt's second bedroom in Mercedes because I wanted to learn English.

From a young age, I was aware of the sacrifices my parents made to give me a better education and I knew that I had to go to college. The question wasn't ‘will I go to college.' It was ‘how.' How was I going to pay for school if I didn't have a Social Security Number? How was I going to be accepted if I wasn't a citizen? How was I going to be able to attend a four-year university as a Dreamer?

Luckily, DACA went into effect the summer before my junior year and we immediately started the application process with LUPE. I received my work permit, obtained my Social Security Number, and focused more on preparing for college. Two years later, I graduated Salutatorian from Edcouch – Elsa High School and in my graduation speech I told my classmates and community that I was a DACA recipient for the first time. DACA not only gave me the power to go to college and work, it also gave me the power to feel comfortable speaking up for myself and for those that did not have the opportunity that I did. 

“From a young age, I was aware of the sacrifices my parents made to give me a better education”

Iara Arai Kirchner, DACA holder

DACA has been such a blessing to me and has changed my life in so many wonderful ways. I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley in 2017. Immediately after graduating, I got a job that allowed me to travel the country in a giant peanut-shaped vehicle for a whole year. That job allowed me to fall even more in love with the country where I have lived most of my life and meet amazing people including my now husband. I now live in Chicago which is mind-boggling considering the fact that I couldn't even drive two hours north to visit Corpus Christi before DACA. It is incredible to believe that if it weren't for DACA going into effect 10 years ago my life would be completely different!

We are organizing toward a world where we all live freely and safely, have autonomy over our bodies, and determination over our futures. For immigrants, that starts with permanent protection and a path to citizenship.

But to get to that future, we need to look back on where we’ve been. On the occasion of DACA’s 10 year anniversary, take a look back on a decade of DACA and the fight for immigrant dignity in the RGV. Check out our timeline here.

John-Michael Torres is Communications Coordinator for La Unión del Pueblo Entero. More posts

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