Today Is Nothing But A Dream

Para leer esta historia en español, haz un clic aquí.  

I have never told my story. I have never found the “right timebut that all changes today. 

Oftentimes, I feel invisible to the world. I feel like I need to hide who I am in fear of rejection and loss of opportunities. It is painful to hear your private, Catholic school classmates talk about the “illegal aliens” coming into the country or the President of the United States addressing the entire country on national television and calling the people in your community “criminals,” “rapists,” and “drug dealers.” Those words tremendously traumatize, hurt and scar you.  

I am not an “alien,” and I am not a “criminal” or a “drug dealer,” nor a “rapist.” I am your neighbor, your friend, and your upbeat, conversational hostess and busser at your favorite, local restaurant. I am your soft-spoken classmate, who helps you with homework and teaches you the material when you are sick or don’t understand a concept. I am a volunteer at your hospitals, charity events, and human rights non-profit organizations. I am also your eager student, who sits in the front row of your class and intently listens to your lecture. 

What you do not see behind my cheerful smile: the immense fear I sense each second of my life, worried that at any moment all my hard work and dreams will end. As a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), I have felt this fear from the moment I realized my status in this country. As a DACA recipient, you never stop worrying about whether you or a loved one will be apprehended by ICE officials. You also wonder if you will be detained and your DACA documentation will not matter, and, before you can grasp the situation, you will be in removal proceedings.  

In June of 2019, news outlets wrote about a father and daughter, who washed up on the shore of the Rio Grande, where millions of people swim and cross in hopes of reaching the United States. The father, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, with his daughter, Valeria, tragically died on their journey to this country, where they had hoped to find safety and opportunities. This little girl and father had the same last name as me.  

After I saw the heart-wrenching image of that father and daughter on the shore of the Rio Grande, I started to think about myself. What if I was that little girl? I felt shocked, devastated, frustrated, and defeated. I broke down in tears for the loss of Oscar’s and Valeria’s lives. I started to seriously question the United States lack of action. Why did the U.S. government fail to decriminalize the immigration system and establish an effective system, so that Oscar and Valeria could have safely relocated to the United States from Mexico? Do we live in a country where politics are more important than a child’s life? Immigrants seeking a home in the United States want a life where they do not live in fear because of who they are—their gender, political opinion, family affiliation, religion, or nationality, and all the real, harsh realities immigrants face in their native country.  

As a DACA recipient, you learn to live with all of this fear but never let it stop you. There are moments when you break down from anxiety because of the implications of your status. The uncertainty both humbles you and motivates you to work harder than yesterday. I hope to inspire other DACA recipients never to stop dreaming and putting in the sweat, blood, and tears necessary to achieve their wildest dreams. Also, I want to encourage other DACAmented people to share their stories in order to help people understand who we truly are—a community of survivors that belong here and want to positively change and build the country we all call home.  

DACA has given me the basic tools for a successful, prosperous life. I am attending college, where I have a full-tuition scholarship. I am a volunteer at a human rights organization as an interpreter and translator. I have worked since the age of 16 in the service/food industry. I feel blessed that I now have a real shot at my aspirations and ambitions because of the implementation of DACA. 

My dream is to attend law school and become an immigration attorney. My dream is to help people in the immigrant community by winning an asylum case or by advocating to keep the DACA program, or even by being part of the team that will devise an immigration reform bill for this country. My dream is to become a judge and someday reach the position of a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  

I genuinely do not know when my dream of remaining in this country will end but I will never let my status define me. I am afraid about DACA’s future but I refuse to live in fear. I proudly stand with the immigrant community, especially the undocumented people in this country, and I want to dedicate my life to advocating for their rights. I am beyond thankful for all my supervisors at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program for their support and guidance, especially for giving me this platform to write my story. I also want to thank everyone who helped me get to this undergraduate intern position at Harvard Law School. In addition, all the people that have taught me beautiful and hard lessons about life. And to those who have rejected me for the color of my skin and failed to recognize my worth—I intend to change the world in unimaginable ways. 

A special thank you to my family. I grew up with my phenomenal parents and two incredible brothers. We did not have a lot of money and lived day-to-day for most of my life. Regardless, we found happiness through family. My childhood and adolescence included endless hours of quality family time, homework and helping my parents build their cleaning business.  From the beginning of my life, I recall my parents emphasizing the importance of an education. They repeatedly told my brothers and me that the way to defeat life’s adversities was by acquiring knowledge through an education. Every day my mom (and sometimes our dad, when he was not working 16 hour days) would sit at the dining table with me and my brothers and help us with homework, even though the assignments and projects were in a language my parents had never formally learned. They would try to figure out the assignments and projects with us, help answer our questions and provide moral support by simply sitting next to us. 

My mom, dad, and brothers have showed me the values of hard work, determination, passion, and fearlessness, which helped me become an independent, courageous woman. They have motivated and guided me to never give up.  Without my family’s support and guidance, I could not have achieved any of my dreams. 

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the history and current status of DACA. At the end of this post, I inserted this quote, “We live to see another day. We live to stay another day. We live to dream another day. So, the dream continues…” –Anonymous. After my mom finished reading the post, she came to me and asked me where I found the quote. When I told her I wrote it myself, she said, “Those words were so beautiful. Why did you put anonymous?” I told her, “I didn’t want anyone reading to assume I was a DACA recipient. It’s not time yet to share that part of me.” Since then, I have reflected on my response and I realized how afraid I was to tell my story and show the world who I am. Not anymore. 

My name is Alma Estefani Martinez Ramirez. I was born in Cordoba, Veracruz Mexico. I am a DACA recipient and this is my story. 

“We live to see another day. We live to stay another day. We live to dream another day. So, the dream continues…” –Alma 

This post was written by HIRC intern Alma Martinez Ramirez. She is a rising senior at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities with a Major in Political Science and a double minor in Philosophy and Public Health.

Image 1: credit to Yocelyn Riojas. Image 2: credit to Pablo Stanley.