By Eddy Martinez
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
George Kenefati, a sophomore at Macaulay Honors College in Manhattan, recently posted a social event on Facebook for his fellow students. It was meant to raise awareness of the challenges faced by students in the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program. Kenefati, 19, is originally from Venezuela. His family migrated when he was 6.
He expected a big turnout. But fewer than 20 people showed up. He didn’t mind. He’s friends with all of them. They passed the time eating cookies and drinking pineapple juice.
It was fun, and a mental vacation from the anxiety of not knowing what his future could be.
There are others just like Kenefati who feel like quintessential New Yorkers but know the government thinks otherwise. As long as they can remember, they’ve known the rumble of a subway train, the breathtaking view of Manhattan’s skyline and the smells — good and bad — of New York City’s vibrant and dynamic streets. These otherwise typical New Yorkers have had their lives turned upside down due to their lack of a U.S. birth certificate. President Barack Obama’s executive action in 2012 allowed them to live normal lives, while President Donald Trump has shown little regard for their future as lawful residents.
They are recipients of DACA, which was rescinded in September. DACA recipients have held protests, talked to the press and pressured members of Congress to help them by passing a palatable DREAM act. When some DACA members march, they chant “Sin DACA, Sin Miedo” or “No DACA, no fear.” What the marches or news coverage don’t show is the humdrum nature of their lives.
These three DACA recipients share their experiences, from when they first felt like New Yorkers to what it was like to tell their friends that they’re undocumented.
Jisu Kim, 23, is originally from South Korea; her family came over when she was in the fourth grade. She works at the MinKwon Center for Community Action, a community activist organization in Flushing, Queens, which she enjoys. She spends her free time watching YouTube videos of Korean pop singers. She’s sweet with a slightly awkward air.
Shareny Diaz Saldana, 28, came from Mexico City on a tourist visa when she was 2. She is a grants coordinator at CUNY Citizenship Now!, which provides free immigration law services. She lives in the Bronx and got married this year to a U.S citizen she met a few months ago. Both families think they’re going too fast, but she knows she made the right decision.
DACA recipients are often described in lofty terms. The Statue of Liberty gets mentioned at some point. But it’s also American to complain about the trains and enjoy a good, hot slice of pizza. Like these three.