On Thursday, Sept. 22, I became one of a small group of Latinx leaders who were able to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris during her visit to Milwaukee. As a DACA recipient living in the United States, receiving this opportunity was something I never imagined possible. My understanding and conception of government officials has, for the most part, revolved around fear and anxiety because of my legal status, but for many years now I have been chanting up and down the streets “undocumented AND unafraid!” This opportunity brought that phrase to life.
Vice President Harris met with us, Latinx leaders in the Greater Milwaukee area, to gather intel on the issues we feel are most pressing for our community. The issues we addressed ranged from the need for educational and financial resources, to pathways toward citizenship for our immigrant communities, to a request of resources for Spanish-speakers.
I chose to dedicate my time to discussing the absence of congressional action in allowing all DACA recipients to obtain professional and occupational licenses. It is not common knowledge that numerous states prohibit DACA recipients from holding these licenses due to outdated laws that require immediate revision by the government. These laws bring forth additional hardships to DACA recipients who struggle to put themselves through school to only ultimately discover they cannot exercise the degree they poured their heart, sweat and tears into.
With all due respect, I urged Vice President Harris to think about all the positions that could be filled if DACA recipients nationwide were given this access, especially during these times where national shortages of teachers and nurses are extremely high. My goal was to advocate for others, like myself, who are in a position where they want to serve their communities – in my case as a teacher – but are faced with the challenge of not knowing if we will be able to due to our legal status. Our future generations deserve educators who want to teach, so why not give us the access to do so?
More importantly, in this space I was introduced to numerous Latinx leaders of our Milwaukee community who consistently make an effort to represent Latinx peoples in their fields. It was such a beautiful experience to see how we are slowly progressing and becoming the representation we wished to see growing up. In my opinion, the best part was discovering that I was not the only DACA recipient in the room. The pride and joy I felt in that moment was immense, seeing how far we are getting because it is true that we are not just one or two, we are thousands!
We are no longer afraid because we know we deserve to be here and we will fight to get our voices heard! At the end of the day, I will not know for certain if my words had any meaningful impact, but I know it was a sign that things are changing and we need to continue fighting for the rights we deserve.