60 Days

I’m a Dreamer. This Shutdown Debate Has Filled Me With Dread.

The cruel truth is that I have an expiration date. I can’t eagerly plan for my future like other teenagers.

Zach Gibson

In a few weeks I will be getting dressed up and going to prom. Then I will spend countless hours studying for my final exams. In May, I will graduate from high school and a few months later head to college. These are milestones that every average American teenager dreams about and plans for, but right now, I have another milestone in mind.

I’m not an average American teenager, I’m an American teenager with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that gave me the chance to get a driver’s license, get a job, and apply for scholarships that would not be available without it.

On Sept. 5, I remember standing in front of the TV screen, with my stomach in knots as the Trump administration, without any regard for me or the many like me, killed the DACA program.

And as a result, my DACA protections expire in 60 days.

The cruel truth is that I have an expiration date. I can’t eagerly plan for my future like other teenagers. Instead, without DACA, I have to prepare to live without the ability to drive, get health insurance, or work and pay for my college tuition. And without a path toward citizenship I now have to prepare for the real possibility that I could face detention and deportation.

I could face deportation for something as small as a traffic ticket, or, because I live in Texas, any chance encounter with a police officer under my state’s Senate Bill 4.

This is definitely not how I had hoped to spend my senior year of high school. It’s not how thousands of immigrant youth had planned to live their lives: living in limbo.

We live in constant anxiety. We wait by the TV to hear any news. We check Twitter multiple times a day to see whether Trump has said something else about DACA.

This last week has been even worse. All the major news channels are talking about a shutdown, about deals between Republicans and Democrats, about the fate of thousands of young people—about my future. And here I am, sitting in statistics class trying to focus on passing a test on standard deviation and averages.

Around this time two years ago, I was in a completely different situation.

I can still vividly remember when I first saw my DACA permit card. My mom and dad hid it in a cake they made to celebrate the arrival of my Social Security card just weeks before. It felt like we were celebrating a birthday. The beginning of a new life.

To this day, the card still bears the impression left by the knife. The day I thought that I knew for sure what my future looked like. That working hard in school would finally pay off, and that I would be able to turn my studies into something tangible.

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Though it’s not much bigger than the palm of my hand, this card has meant everything. Some might say it’s just a piece of paper, and maybe that made it easier for Trump to heartlessly break the promise that the government made to us.

Maybe that’s why it was so easy for their administration to chip away at the security undocumented young people had for what felt like a brief moment.

Maybe that’s why it’s been so easy for Republicans to get in the way of passing the Dream Act.

The clock has ticked and ticked since Sept. 5, and over 16,000 young people have lost their DACA since then.

At this point, I know that a solution will still take months to implement. I know that even if the Dream Act passes today I will still have a lapse in protection. In 60 days, I will still face the real risk of deportation.

When the Senate Majority Leader said on Thursday night that “there is no urgency for a DACA fix,” I wished I could scream across the screen so that he could hear my story, and the story of the thousands of young people like me, who live knowing that everyday we live without the Dream Act is another day that we will live with uncertainty, anguish, and without protections.