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Neither Here Nor There

As Blanca looked out the car window at garlic and almond fields whooshing by like blurry, half-forgotten dreams, a vaguely familiar feeling stirred up inside her, one she hadn’t felt since a January morning 14 years ago in Querétaro, Mexico, when she saw her father fade into the distance with nothing but knapsack on his back and the promise of returning in a year.  Now, she was the one leaving her family behind.  As a sign spelling “Berkeley” flashed before the windshield, she thought she could read the contents of her father’s lost gaze reflected in the rearview mirror, and suddenly it dawned on her that she was not just going to college: once more, she was crossing a border.

Blanca has spent most of her life in Bakersfield, CA, along with her mother, an agricultural worker, her father, a gardener, and her 10-year old sister Sonia, who was born in the United States. A public health and pre-med student now entering her fifth semester at UC Berkeley, she received DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an Obama executive order granting temporary legal status to eligible undocumented youth, in February of this year, being one of the 900,000 undocumented youth eligible to apply. In addition, the California DREAM Act has made college possible for Blanca by allowing her to pay in-state tuition and giving her access to private scholarships, institutional financial aid and state financial aid, as well as the permission to work legally. However, no legislation has been approved that would protect her family from deportation, making her path towards the attainment of a college degree a fragile one, as her parents’ deportation would not only deprive her of her only support system, but also make her solely responsible for her 10-year old citizen sister.

It is estimated that every year, 90,000 parents of citizen children are deported, fragmenting families and placing youth in emotionally traumatic and vulnerable situations. While DACA and the DREAM Act are laudable steps towards allowing undocumented youth who were brought to this country as children to pursue an education and contribute to society, Blanca’s story shows that it is certainly not a solution to a problem that concerns not just individuals, but entire families. While politicians and the public are entangled in a heated debate about border security and the future waves of immigration into the United States, close to 12 million undocumented immigrants who already live in the United States hide in the shadows, waiting in limbo for a chance to live in this country legally. Blanca, a “DREAMer”, is one individual amongst the estimated 1.7 million youth brought to this country by their parents before the age of 16. Undocumented youth who graduate high school have historically faced a hard future, like their parents, and unfortunately many more obstacles then their documented peers, due to the high costs of attending university/ college and lack of permission to work legally.