Today, June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court made the decision to uphold DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and protect Dreamers. A permanent decision still needs to be reached in Congress, but today we celebrate with the young men and women across the country who can continue contributing to our communities and long for a path toward citizenship. Dorian is a DACA recipient in Memphis.
In a society that is pushing a message of division daily, it is a blessing to meet someone striving to change the narrative and whose life is an example of the potential for Dreamers in Memphis and beyond. Dorian first arrived in America 16 years ago, when his parents left Honduras for America with the dream of finding stable work to raise their family. Dorian describes his family’s choosing of Memphis as “destiny.” It was a risky decision for his family who arrived undocumented. At the time, Memphis was not a city on the rise, packed with exciting emerging opportunities as it is today. A pivotal event helped change his trajectory moving forward. DACA was passed, giving him a pathway to legally attend schools and pursue his life-long goals.
His 8th grade teacher – whom has since become a mentor and like second family – expressed her sense that he had an incredible knack for learning and immense potential. With her and her husband’s support emotionally and financially he was enrolled at Christian Brothers High School. He describes his Freshman year as a culture shock: “There was a huge lack in minority students. The quality of education was very good. But, I did deal with stereotypes and microaggressions because I was different.” Undeterred, Dorian used the negative energy as fuel to keep him motivated and considered himself to be his biggest enemy. “At the end of the day, if I fail, it’s because of myself. I can’t let societal obstacles stop me.” He finished his Freshman year with the highest GPA in his class. Continuing to build on his success, he excelled in honors classes and just graduated from Rhodes College where he studied Economics.
Currently, Dorian is striving to enter into the corporate field and better the country that he has called home for many years. However, in these past few years, the opportunities for DACA Dreamers have been called into question. “When the removal of DACA was first threatened, I felt my dreams crashing in. I gave everything I have to make America great yet they suddenly don’t want me here?” His fear is far from the only one, as thousands DACA recipients are living with the knowledge of policy change looming overhead. As we talked, our photographer and fellow advocate for refugees and immigrants made an excellent point: “We all came to America at different points in history with dreams and goals unachievable in our homelands. If now certain people are not allowed here, by extension of the same logic, we all should not be here.” Despite this, Dorian is choosing a life of joy. He has returned the compassion and guidance he received from his mentors while a young student and has become a mentor for a 3rd grader and 6th grader while also remaining active in the DACA community at Rhodes. “My main goal every day is this: How can I translate my love of all people into actions? Your experiences define what you believe and that’s how I’ve developed my faith.”
As we look to the future of DACA Dreamers and Latinx immigrants in this country, there is still much work to be done for us to fully embody Christ’s command to love and accept the sojourners. Dorian’s goal is to change common misconception and spread love. “We didn’t come here to be criminals and rapists. I want my story to show that despite immense odds that you can still be successful. I want to widen the doors for the future of world changers. I always see hope and want to change the narrative about immigrants, refugees, and illegal aliens. I’m optimistic that this will happen.”
In light of the Supreme Court decision, Dorian shared these thoughts:
SCOTUS’s recent ruling on DACA elicited a wave of emotions–gratitude and hope are the two most prominent. The uncertainty of my legal status has been a burden that is mentally draining. As I looked forward to starting my full-time job, my concern grew, as the termination of my legal status would crush my hopes of entering the corporate world. However, today’s news brought temporary relief. I have not seen my extended family in over 15 years, so the possibility of using advance parole to see them and travel for work is exhilarating. Unfortunately, Dreamers do not have the privilege to vote, but I hope people that can vote to do so. The 5-4 ruling in favor of DACA highlights how one vote can make a difference. This is a victory, but we still have a war ahead. I am hopeful for an equitable and just world, not just for DACA recipients.
By Nathan Spencer
Photos by Emily Frazier
June is #immigrantheritagemonth and #refugeeawareness month and we have been featuring stories of Memphis students who are thriving as part of our community. With your support, World Relief offices across the US have helped file approximately 4,300 applications for protections under the DACA program over the last eight years. Together, we’ve provided thousands of young immigrants with access to education, jobs and a promising future. When you give today, you ensure our vital work together continues. If you would like to sign the Dreamers letter to Congress with the Evangelical Immigration Table, click here.