An Interview with a DACA Recipient: “My status didn’t stop me, it inspired me.”

By Francisco Velazquez

You could say breaking bread is the easiest way at getting to know someone. Over Peruvian empanadas from a nearby Union Square restaurant can make it even easier. I met with Bruno on a weekday afternoon. After concluding both our summer internships for the day, we sat down for a one-on-one on his experience as a DACA recipient here at Harvard.

In a cross-country journey at the age of 6, upcoming senior Bruno Villegas McCubbin would quickly learn the difficulty of leaving home and the opportunities that seemed nearly impossible at one point and time. The beginning of change began the day Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was enacted, a small glimpse of freedom for Bruno.

“As an immigrant you tend to grow-up with not that much money, moving from place to place and never having a house of your own. For a 6 year old, it creates a lot of baggage and at that point it can mean that you are exposed to a lot of bad things. If you’re brown, you’re labeled as certain things and people label you in certain ways; to the point you start believing them yourself,” said Bruno.

The risks Bruno and his family were willing to take closely resemble the sacrifices of millions of migrant families also seeking some form of stability.

“At the time my parents decided to immigrate here, they left their whole family behind. My dad worked as a salesman selling cloth in Peru. There came a point when sales began to go down and they wanted him to go into very dangerous parts of Peru, in the rain forest. It was common knowledge to go there and get mugged, at best, and murdered, at worst. It became combinations of not only safety and education but also economic reasons, we knew that migrating would mean leaving everything and everyone behind,” said Bruno.

Between the crowded streets, schools, homes and extensive list of immigrant cultures in his native home of Orange County, California, Bruno found a necessary support system early in school. However, his admiration for learning was met with constant hurdles. For Bruno, the American Dream has not always been something he can describe in a concrete manner.

“Whether the American Dream exists in the way people assume it does, I really don’t have an answer. I believe that it is something that is glamorized. I don’t like to picture achieving the ‘American Dream,’ as anything more than providing a good to a lot of people that are in worse situations than I am. In order for me to do good, for my parents and for other people as well, I need to make these certain changes regardless of the difficulty,” said Bruno.

It is difficult to acknowledge the struggles facing Bruno’s generation, but waving a white flag against the powers of injustice isn’t an option either. And perhaps that is the true American Dream. A drive to better your community despite the hurdles that seek to exclude you from that same community.

“When the election happened I went from this mentality that ‘I’ve been given this opportunity at Harvard so I should follow this certain path to success.’ But it quickly
changed to, ‘No, I have this platform I need to use it to be an advocate, to talk to people, to educate and have discussions with people. Argue sometimes, rally, hold up a megaphone and sometimes yell at administrators.’ It ultimately comes down to how can we shift the opinions of the people who need the shifting,” said Bruno.

Similarly to Bruno, I became inspired to help the Latino community after the previous election. I thought of the ways in which I could extend my protest, past the march. My time at HIRC has allowed me to witness and understand the process of representing clients.

HIRC continues to work closely on consultation and legal services by providing support and legal representation in response to the needs of undocumented and DACAmented students at Harvard and the surrounding Harvard community. Bruno and other students at “Act On A Dream,” have helped draw attention to the need for dedicated legal representatives for the Harvard community.

“You come to realize you are here for a reason. Although admissions here at Harvard or somewhere else may seem like the scariest place, the people admitting you believe in you
and your ability to do something amazing. I think you can and will ultimately decide to live up to that. Like those that came before us and led the immigrant rights movement. They changed my life and the future of this country,” said Bruno.

HIRC’s commitment to incoming students like Bruno continues to contribute key sources of support in light of immigrant rights. By playing a critical role in immigration and asylum law at such a pivotal time in our country’s political movement, I have learned that helping those who need it most is a group effort and, most importantly, a recurring passion to change a faulty system. My time with Bruno and the HIRC team has shown me the need for change is now. If we truly believe in the circumstances we are given, we must work to change the injustices of blame and disbelief.

This post was written by Francisco Velazquez, a summer intern at HIRC. He is a junior at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and he is double majoring in Journalism and Anthropology with a certificate in Chican@/Latin@studies.