As an immigrant in the United States, I stand at a crucial crossroads, a testament to both hope and determination. My journey as a DACA recipient is a poignant reminder of the multiple and compounding ways our nation’s flawed immigration policies jeopardize the lives of countless people who only want to live in safety, work and contribute to our communities.
That is why I want to share my story. I want to advocate for bipartisan legislation to protect families impacted by our nation’s outdated and ineffective immigration bars, a harsh policy currently preventing millions of families from being together by denying certain undocumented immigrants — including many DACA recipients like myself — the ability to adjust their status through legal channels.
Being a DACA recipient who is also impacted by the immigration bars is something that is rarely discussed or much less considered in the halls of Congress.
I am a mother of two U.S. citizens, I am a wife and I am a researcher at a university in the northeast and a board member at the University of Utah. My life in America encompasses the career I’ve painstakingly built thanks to hard work, sacrifices and the opportunities that DACA has afforded me over the past 11 years.
However, the looming threat to the program’s future has made it difficult to live with full stability. Especially after Texas District Court Judge Andrew Hanen recently ruled against the legality of DACA, casting an even darker cloud over the fate of the program. My status, career and future in this country hang in uncertainty.
The existing immigration system in America is far too complicated and non-inclusive, which is clear when looking at my situation and what led me to this position. My mother, sister and I came to the U.S. on a visa that was granted to us to visit family and, when we decided to stay, we fell out of status. After 10 years, my mother and sister were both able to adjust their status and become U.S. citizens. I, unfortunately, was too old to be included in their application.
I’ve had DACA protections for more than 10 years. If I were to lose my DACA status, I would have to apply for a visa at the U.S. embassy in Peru — which would trigger a 10-year immigration bar that would automatically punish me with a ban preventing me from returning to my family in the U.S., despite me following the legal channels that I qualify for. The prospect of having to be separated from my children is truly unbearable.
As it stands now, the immigration system fails to provide millions of impacted families with certainty and a chance to fulfill our fullest potential. These immigration bars, as well as threats to DACA, are devastating to millions of mixed-status families like mine. It is disheartening to see such a flawed system that ultimately punishes instead of helping those who qualify and want to access pathways to adjust their legal status.
Thankfully, change is within reach. But it will require bold leadership from our leaders in Washington, D.C., who agree the status quo is simply unsustainable. Congress needs to hear our stories and heed the call from a majority of Americans who demand action on immigration, including common-sense reforms to the harmful three- and 10-year immigration bars and securing permanent solutions for DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals.
Congress should have acted sooner, but there’s still time.
Pamela Portocarrero is a DACA recipient and a researcher living in Utah who would face a 10-year immigration bar if she were to leave the U.S. and attempt to adjust her status.
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