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Politics

ENCORE: CSU DREAMer says "I don't remember anything but my home here in Colorado"

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Wikimedia Commons
Demonstrators in Washington D.C. protest the Trump Administration's decision to end DACA on Sept. 5th 2017.

UPDATE: 21-year-old Anarely Marquez will accompany Democratic Colorado congressman Jared Polis to the 2018 State of the Union Address. Marquez is a Colorado State University student and DACA recipient. KUNC's Kyra Buckley spoke to her in September after the Trump administration announced it would end the DACA program. Read more on their conversation below. 

Anarely was at her senior prom when tragedy struck: She dislocated her knee. But her next stop wasn’t the doctor’s office. Anarely is a so-called “DREAMer,” brought to the U.S. illegally at 6-years-old, and she didn’t qualify for health insurance.

“I feel like it’s such a routine thing to just say, ‘Hey, I’m sick, I’m going to go to the doctor,’” says the now-junior at Colorado State University. “But for my parents it was such a big sacrifice to get us to the doctor because it was a lot of money. We don’t qualify for health insurance, we don’t qualify for any form of aid.”

Today her knee is fine, but she still doesn't have health insurance.

Anarely (KUNC agreed not to use her last name) says she spent her childhood feeling like she was in the shadows—like any wrong move could threaten her ability to stay in the United States. But that changed in 2012 when the Obama administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.

“It felt like there were all these things that were not guarantees to me, like going to college,” she says. “With that announcement it was like I came out from underwater.”

While DACA does not grant access to federal financial aid for college or to Medicaid, it does give short term protected status for young adult immigrants to work legally and obtain driver’s licenses.

On Sept. 5 2017, the Trump Administration announced it would phase out DACA. An estimated 17,000 Coloradans could be at risk for deportation when the program expires in March 2018.

Anarely felt devalued, belittled and dehumanized when she heard the news.

“DACA was so much greater than just allowing us to go to school,” she says. “It was somebody validating that we were people, that we were human and that we deserve to live like humans.”

Anarely’s family came to Colorado to care for her grandmother who had been diagnosed with cancer. She always knew she was undocumented, but she didn’t always understand what that meant. It came up when her family wanted travel—her parents were too scared to even leave the state for a family wedding. It came up when she needed to go to the doctor, but was treated at home instead. It came up when she wanted to fly to Disneyland like her other friends, but she couldn’t.

“As undocumented immigrants, we all kind of live under the shadows and we try to be as small as possible,” she says. “We try to not make a lot of noise, draw a lot attention to yourself, because it can be dangerous.”

Dangerous in that someone could use her family’s status against them.

Very few people from Anarely’s community graduate from college, but when she was in high school she didn’t just want to go to college, she wanted to go to an elite college.

“I graduated with a 4.3 GPA from high school,” Anarely says. “I remember going to my counselor's office and telling her I wanted to go to Harvard, and her telling me, ‘Yeah, but you're undocumented and you’re not going to be able to pay for it. So why don’t you just go to community college?’”

Anarely describes being left angry after that conversation. She was angry that she had documented friends in the same advanced placement classes as her that were interviewing for Brown and Columbia. She was angry that her grades were just as good -- if not better -- and she was being told to go to community college.

“No one at my school knew how to help me,” she says.

Anarely says she found no sympathy at home. Her father told her to “suck it up,” saying that he came to a country where he didn’t even know how to speak the language and raised a whole family. Surely Anarely could find a way to go to school.

“So I sucked it up,” she says, “and for an entire three months I kept calling colleges and asking what they do for DREAMers. Because of my DACA status, I didn’t feel so fearful.”

With help from private donors, she got into CSU. In her third year, Anarely is a straight-A student triple majoring in political science, ethnic studies and international studies. She also volunteers with immigrants in her community and is active on campus. She promises she sometimes finds time to sleep.

Those opposed to DACA say it’s unconstitutional and argue those in the country illegally are hurting American workers. In his decision to end the program, President Trump called on Congress to act on immigration reform in the next six months.

Anarely hopes lawmakers will tackle these issues, but it’s the support from professors and community members, as well as the thousands of people showing up to demonstrations, that gives her lasting hope—because she, along with many DREAMers, don’t plan on going anywhere.

“For us this is our home,” she says. “I don’t remember anything but this. I don’t remember anything but my home here in Colorado.”

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