“All I want, all I dream of is becoming a legal citizen of the United States.”
Roberto Turcios is a lanky, shy 19-year-old. Latino. As a community college professor, I met him as one of my freshman composition students. Before I knew any details of his life; I knew he was different, his eagerness in class, his punctuality, the hard work he put into his essays and assignments. And then there was his smile that seemed to mask sadness, but was still bright, hopeful and charismatic.
Roberto’s family migrated from El Salvador, a country he does not know and one that his family fled because of a catastrophic 7.6 magnitude earthquake (that happened on January 13, 2001) and an increase in gang violence. Today he expresses concern and worry over his status as a DACA registered illegal immigrant. “I, we (the estimated 800,000 participants of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) were promised by Obama a possible pathway to legal citizenship if we gave up all our information to be part of the DACA program. Jump to 2018 and it has all changed, which seems so unfair.”
Roberto currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada; he was brought to this country two months shy of his third birthday. He didn’t cross a river or jump a wall; he arrived by plane with his mother from El Salvador in 2001.
“Two weeks before starting middle school my mom told me I was illegal. It took a while for that to sink in; I only ever remember living in the United States, I always pledged alliance to the flag in my classroom. I have always identified as an American citizen.” Roberto hangs his head, almost embarrassed by a situation of which he had no control.
Today, Roberto lives with his mom who is illegal and his father that is on TPS, a program which the government (Trump administration) recently ended its renewal. Roberto has two siblings, both born in the United States, and both are minors. “My biggest fear is my parents and myself being deported. Being sent back to a country where gangs slaughter people daily. There is no future there for anyone.” He feels anguish about a possible outcome that he cannot even imagine. And ponders how his family will survive?
Today the fate of DACA is still unknown. Soon Congress will make a decision. Roberto would like, “the President to pass immigration reform and grant amnesty for all the illegal immigrants that are already here. Those that have been here working and supporting their families, living a crime free life.”
Roberto’s story is no different from thousands of other “dreamers.” All waiting with baited breathe for a reckoning, a miracle that will absolve their crime of wanting to be an American. “If my parents and I would become legal that would mean everything to me. No more worrying about losing our house. I could have a clear and secure mindset that nothing bad is going to happen to us because of our immigration status.” The brow that was wrinkled smooths, as he smiles about an outcome that would free him from the chains of uncertainty.
The last question I had for Roberto was simple: What are your goals for the future, if granted legal status what career would you pursue?
He doesn’t hesitate and with a prideful tone he says, “If I would be given US citizenship, I would pursue a career in the military as an Air Force Pilot. It has been my dream since I was a child.”
Loretta Vela Davis is a professor at the College of Southern Nevada and writer living in Las Vegas.