The Diary of Joaquín Magón Entry 29: The Dreamer Chronicles, Part 3
Approved for DACA, Mayté and Lamber Can Finally Pursue their Dreams
I first spoke to Mayté, 21, in December as she was finishing up her stay at College of the Desert (COD), the Coachella Valley’s community college. She was getting ready to transfer and was waiting for her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) approval.
I sat down with her again over the summer, along with her brother, Lamber, 18, for a follow up interview. Mayte had been approved for DACA in January 2013 and Lamber was approved a few months after.
Lamber recently graduated from Desert Mirage High School in Thermal, and he plans to go to COD because, as he puts it, “I have no cash.” He wants to study liberal arts and become a teacher.
Our conversation is a mix between me asking questions about their experience and them asking me questions on what to expect for the DACA renewals and what to expect if S. 744 — or any other comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill — becomes law. I explain that if the bill passes in its current form, DACA recipients won’t have to go through another background check and would go through a 5-year waiting period to become a legal permanent resident. It’s all speculation, of course, but it makes for good conversation.
Mayté is getting ready to start her first semester in CSU San Bernardino, embarking on her new adventures in a new school and a new city. To say that DACA changed her life drastically would be undermine her immense ability to survive, her resourcefulness; she would have graduated from a university regardless because she wants it bad enough, but now that the playing field has been leveled a bit more it will be easier.
“The only thing that has come from DACA is that now I can work legally,” says Mayté. “Before I would feel kind of restrained, only because I didn’t have papers. I couldn’t work. Now it’s better. I can go to San Bernardino. I had postponed that because I didn’t have a work permit. I didn’t have papers, and I asked where am I going to work? How am I going to pay for my classes? And my mom wasn’t going to help me out because she can barely pay for this [apartment].”
Their mother is a farm worker. She works the season picking lettuce in the night shifts. When I spoke to them it was May, the heat of the desert was hitting well over 90 degrees and would slowly creep over 100 in the coming summer months.
To go outside for a walk is unbearable, to work at a fast pace is deadly. Many companies prefer to work by night going in at 4 p.m and coming out at 3 a.m. One can imagine the difficulties of such a task, in particular for parents that must leave their children home either with a babysitter or alone at those hours of the night as parents swipe and cut away. While the city dreams, she dreams of one day having her children graduate from college and be the platform for which they, as a family, can achieve the American dream. She navigates the night with a knife and a light bulb searching and cutting produce that will make its way into a sandwich somewhere that one of us will eat.
“Whenever [our mom] comes from the fields,” says Lamber, “I can see her veins, her blood vessels exploded…[she has] cuts everywhere, her skin is rough.”
Seeing the conditions that her mother has to go through, and the injustices that her mother suffers in the work place, Mayté decided to go to school to become a labor attorney. Lamber, having seen how difficult it is to navigate the school system that he, at such a young age has noticed does not welcome all students equally, has decided to become an English teacher because he believes “those are the ones you learn the most from.”
Like Mayté and Lamber there are millions of students out there fighting for CIR. We can look at CIR, we can look at our communities and see how immigration is integrated into every single aspect, in every single atom of our lives. The undocumented, low-income populations are usually relegated to the less economically privileged part of town, usually the East — the Eastern Coachella Valley, East Salinas, East Los Angeles. What we are seeing more and more of today are young immigrants that look around, notice their parents, notice the walls of the buildings on their side of town, notice the paved streets on the other side of town, notice their hands, notice their dreams, and notice the barriers.
What we see is a crux. A point. A specific point in history where people see that they want to change the world and are beginning to grow and become the root cause of a change that will spread like vines intertwined on walls. Neither Alma, Mayte, nor Lamber want to become leaders of a large movement. They want to become a lawyer, a teacher, a marriage counselor. In other words, they want to become integrated into society and change society from within. But that change, that fight for CIR is not an end; it’s a means from which to attain the full rights of a voting citizen coupled with the power of an education, in order to return to their community and to make things better for both the generation before them – the parents that migrated, that worked in the hot, burning, fields, construction sites, cleaning the halls of a university, mowing the lawn of mansion – and for the next generation that will not have to bear witness to the pain of the past.
The Diary of Joaquín Magón is written by Jesús E. Valenzuela Félix, a reporter from Coachella living in Salinas and working for the United Farm Workers Foundation. He is a regular contributor to Coachella Unincorporated and New America Media.