He’s DACA And Now In Limbo
B.G. is a DACA recipient from Guatemala. He was brought here at age 5 and hardly knows his place of birth. President Trump ended DACA in Sept. 2017. This has put B.G.’s life in limbo.
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It was established in 2012 by the Obama Administration to allow young people who were brought here as children to be able to work or to go to school, rather than hiding.
“I don’t remember a lot about myself before the U.S. ,” B.G. told Jasmine Toledo, who interviewed him. (We are using initials to protect his identity and Quinque Rodriguez-Pastor reads his words on the podcast.)
“I lived in a very small town, very rural. A lot of mountains. We had a small house but we weren’t very wealthy.” His father worked in a factory making airplane parts and they grew peaches.
His father left for the U.S., while his mother lived in Guatemala with B.G., his brother and his grandparents. “There is this idea that the U.S. is the land of opportunity. For my parents, it meant a better future for both their children and themselves,” he said.
Once here in Brooklyn, mother found him a school in the neighborhood. “I used to get time alone with an assistant teacher to learn English,” he said. “On top of trying to learn what my peers were learning, I had to try and learn English as well. It was harder to socialize, so I didn’t have too many friends.”
When he was 16, he started working with his father on construction. He worked there for three years. He has worked at Abercrombie and Fitch, in landscaping and for the Department of Sanitation. He now works in a Russian food factory, making what he describes as Russian ravioli, pasta stuffed with meat, cheese or cherries.
“My typical day starts at 4 in the morning. I get ready and leave at 5 and get to work around 6 am, working from 6 am to 3 pm,” said B.G. Then there is overtime. “We basically stay until we are told to go,” he said. Sometimes that means working from 6 to 6 pm.
“It’s very physically demanding,” he said, “sometimes I will be carrying 40-50 pounds of packaged meats. It gets pretty heavy. I’ve had back pains here and there and I’ve had to go to back therapy.”
At the same time, he’s been going to college as well. “I applied right out of high school,” he said, “there was no doubt about it.”
Because he was undocumented, he has paid his own way the whole time he has been in college, with a bit of help from his father. “There weren’t any scholarships for undocumented people until recently,” he said. “I pretty much just had a year left to graduate. Me, my younger brother and my older brother were all going to college at the same time. That was a lot of money for my father. It was all paid out of pocket.”
Thanks to DACA, he is working on the books. “But there is no security. You completely have to be complicit to all the rules that go to immigrants without papers. You won’t say anything; you’re not going to speak out. You just have to conform to everything. They basically tell you: it is a privilege to have a job so there should be no complaints.”
B.G. lives in an lovingly decorated apartment with two roommates, three cats and a dog. “Sometimes when I get out of work I get anxious,” he said. “I’m more at peace here,” he said pointing around. “It’s a space that matters to me.”
Toledo asked him what he would tell someone who was leaving his country to come to the U.S. “It is not what they think. There are a lot of issues here on a larger scale, in terms of immigration, race, sex and gender and politics. Living in America as a Hispanic immigrant, you are basically a walking political statement. People don’t know what they are coming into. . . . Your perception of self is so much different from what it might be back in your country.”
B.G. grew up in a tiny village near the Pacific coast of Guatemala. B.G. is Mayan, the original people of Guatemala. For almost 40 years, Guatemala was caught up in a bloody civil war between the U.S.–backed military dictatorship and leftist rebels. It is estimated that 200,000 people, many of them Mayan, were killed or “disappeared,” mainly by government forces.