THE DREAMERS, FIVE YEARS LATER
BY MAYA RHODAN AND EMMA TALKOFF | PHOTOGRAPHS BY GIAN PAUL LOZZA FOR TIME
In 2012, TIME worked with journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas to share the story of America’s Dreamers—undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. The day the story was published, President Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has shielded some 800,000 immigrants from deportation and freed them to take jobs, get an education and live the American dream they’d always claimed as their own. Since that time, many of the 30 immigrants who appeared on TIME’s cover have gone on and finished school, started families, traveled abroad and become engaged citizens. One, Roy Naim, chose a different path and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for possessing child pornography.
Now, their future is in doubt. There are reports that President Trump may end the program, despite repeated statements during the campaign that his immigration crackdown would not extend to Dreamers. TIME got back in touch with 15 of the 30 people who appeared on the cover to see how their lives have changed since DACA and what they are at risk of losing if the program ends. Some did not want to be included; others simply didn’t respond. Here are the stories they shared.
For almost a year after DACA was passed, Julio Salgado avoided applying. Like many immigrants who qualified for deferred action, Salgado was plagued by guilt at the thought of friends and family members who didn’t make the cut. Today, he’s channeling the emotions and uncertainty that come with navigating the immigration system into artwork and filmmaking.
What was it like for you when DACA was signed?
It was a very celebratory moment, but at the same time, there were people like my parents who did not qualify. It was just heartbreaking. If you don’t qualify for a piece of paper, that means in the eyes of the public and the immigration system, you’re not human. That to me is the heartbreaking part.
How did the conversation with your parents go when you told them you were hesitant about applying?
I told my dad, “I just feel really guilty.” And I remember crying to them, just crying and feeling how unfair it is that our parents don’t qualify. And he was like, “Dude, get it together, quickly. You need to go ahead and apply.”
I was coming at this from a very idealistic perspective—like no, it’s not fair, I’m not going to do it. Yet my dad, all his life he’s had to work difficult jobs. And he was like, “If I could apply for DACA and get a better job, I would. You’re kind of wasting your opportunity to be able to do that.” It was a wake-up call to me and my idealistic self, and being like, you know what, I wish it wasn’t like this, but this is what we have.
What kind of work have you been doing since DACA?
It sparked something in me. As an artist, it is my duty to document what’s happening, but at the same time I want to document happiness of my people, the resilience. Up to that point I was doing all these images about stopping deportation and while that’s very much needed, I wanted to create something that was giving people hope.
We’re constantly seeing all these images of the person getting arrested by immigration and the sadness of it all. For me, it’s important to put out stories and create art that give me a three-dimensional narrative that a lot of times I don’t see.
In 2010, Erika Andiola became one of the first undocumented people to work as a congressional staffer. Then, in 2015, she made headlines when she was hired as a strategist for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Andiola was working on immigration rights issues that she had fought for for so long—and now she was drafting them into policy, even as she fended off deportation orders for members of her family.
How have things changed for you since the election?
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