How To Help Young Immigrants In Addition to Prayer & Hope

Immigration- TPS - DACA

Due to the current administration’s attitude toward immigrants and the fact that I’m an intern for an immigration reform organization, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to be vocal about immigration.

I started this blog in 2012.

I was seventeen years old and was halfway through my first year of college. I had lived in a kind of ignorant and blissful bubble. That year, I learned the full extent of holding a work permit. I was speaking with a financial aid counselor trying to explain Temporary Protected Status, the program that grants me a work permit.

I knew my document wasn’t called a visa or a green card. That’s how far my understanding went.

The financial aid counselor is the one that broke things down for me and pretty much broke my world.

I had known months into my first year of college that the school, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, was too expensive and that my merit scholarship wasn’t enough. As a first generation student, I also didn’t understand how tuition piled up. I imagined my mother and I, if I continued with my job and applied to scholarships, would be able to manage another year at the school.

In 2012, I learned why paying for school was getting so tough. Immigrants aren’t allowed financial aid and they’re ineligible for many scholarships. With that eye-opening moment, I began to see limits in my world, limits I didn’t know existed for me. It meant that I would not be able to wear those “I voted” stickers, yet alone, vote in elections. I’ve missed two presidential elections since turning 18. For a few years, I was also not able to have access to healthcare. Traveling abroad, low-income and immigrant, was also off my list.

It’s been over five years since that moment, and I haven’t been able to change my legal status.

When I see comments on Facebook criticizing “young and smart” Dreamers for not being smart enough to fix their status, it enrages and disappoints me. There’s no pathway to permanent residency for DACA recipients or TPS recipients.

IMG_1623
Postcards to our representatives, Culmore Junior Youth

The average age of a TPS holder is 43 years old. I’ve had TPS for so long, I didn’t think it made sense to change my “status” or more appropriate, “program,” to another uncertain program, DACA. Yet, I understand too well the struggles and fears of these young immigrants. If any of these young immigrants have been able to adjust their status it’s through complicated means:

  • U-visas, which means you have been the victim of abuse or a crime,
  • Employee-sponsored visa, which comes with the strain of offering product or ideas no other employee can, or
  • Marriage, which is a commitment that should be out of love, not out of fear

What can you do right now to help young immigrants?

  1. Get Informed – ask questions, follow the news, and connect with immigrant organizations
  2. Spread the Word – tell a friend, tell family, don’t stay quiet
  3. Meet the Demands – attend a protest, attend a rally, call and write congress
  4. Donate – these organizations run on volunteer power: National TPS Alliance, United We Dream, & NAKASEC
Tim Kaine at Speak Out for Dreamers
Introducing Tim Kaine at storytelling event, 12/04/2017, Photo: Alida Garcia

The hardest part on this list is meeting the demands. We all have busy schedules. It’s easy to hope. We do it all the time. Prayer, too, though meaningful, does not actively change the situation. I’ve been guilty of not meeting the demands, even though I’m personally affected. If meeting the demands is hard for you, and you are trying, I’m not going to lie. You and I are in a rough position, but the last thing we want is not to try.

If you, are bold and fearless, and meet the demands at every turn, continue. We need you.

What can you right now as you wrap up reading this article? If you haven’t, find your representative today. Next, share this article. If I have come away with one good thing about being an immigrant is that I understand the political system more and more every day.

If a businessman made it to the White House, what’s not to say you, dearest reader, can make it to the White House? Help an immigrant today and help the future.

_________________________________________________

Claudia Rojas is poeta. She’s also a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holder. TPS protects individuals fleeing natural disaster and war on a temporary basis. The program has been extended for many years; no permanent solution has ever been presented. Currently, the countries of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan have lost their TPS designation. El Salvador, Claudia’s country of origin, has 200,000 TPS holders whose lives are at risk should Congress or America fail us. Call your member of Congress today through the FWD.us tool or find your representative’s info online. We cannot delay.

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