'Dreamer' Talks About Effects Of The Supreme Court's DACA Decision On His Life
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
One week ago today the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that offered a bit of respite for hundreds of thousands of people living in America, people in the country illegally who were brought here as children, people who sought protection from deportation under an Obama-era program known as DACA, people like Antonio. We're using his middle name because he is still worried about his immigration status. I met him a few years back as I covered the story of his family and how changing immigration policies caught them up in a web of enforcement and uncertainty. Here he was at one of his lowest points when he feared that his father might be deported.
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ANTONIO: I might as well leave, too. I might as well go back to a country I've never been to. You know, this is the American dream. You know, I'm living it.
SHAPIRO: Antonio is back with us now. It's good to talk to you again. Thanks for being here.
ANTONIO: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
SHAPIRO: So what was last Thursday like for you? I mean, take us to the moment you learned how the Supreme Court had ruled.
ANTONIO: Last Thursday, the day I found out the decision, I was just at school. And then I got a text from a mom and my dad just telling me that they just pretty much made a decision to keep it for now. It would be upsetting if it went the other way and then all the money and all the work that I've invested into, you know, building my future pretty much has gone down the drain in a sense.
SHAPIRO: So when we last talked, you were spending the summer fighting wildfires. And you were going to school to study fire sciences in hopes of getting a full-time firefighting job. Can you tell us about why you want to be a firefighter?
ANTONIO: You know, I grew up in California, where there is a lot of wildfires. And, you know, I've always grown up just seeing them. So it's like a mixture of, like, wanting to help out the community and also just the action within it too. You know, it seems like a really fun job.
SHAPIRO: What's it like to walk down that path of wanting to serve a community and help people, all the while your future within that community is in question?
ANTONIO: You know, it's honestly - it's tough. And it's heart-wrenching. And it's heartbreaking. You know, with a background like mine, you know, I try to, you know, try and do some like that for the community around. And there's a lot of people in the community around that are completely against people like me with - whether it's race, whether it's documentation, whether it's, you know, whatever, they, you know, there's people that are always going to be contradicting that. And just - that's just kind of upsetting, you know.
SHAPIRO: Yeah. I mean, I know you live in an overwhelmingly white part of the country. Do the men and women you serve with and go to school with know your immigration status? Is it a conversation you have with them, something you keep from them?
ANTONIO: My immigration status is something I keep from a lot of people unless they're close relatives or close friends and family. Everyone just thinks I'm Hispanic and, you know, grew up here where they think I grew up, you know.
SHAPIRO: Which, on its face, is true.
ANTONIO: Yeah. Well, it's 100% true. Yeah. I didn't grow up anywhere else but, I mean, the documentation definitely has a part to do with it. Like, let's say I go and apply for like a firefighting job. You know, they see I'm a DACA recipient. What are they going to instantly think? Oh, this guy's illegal. And he came here illegally. And he has paperwork to work. You know, that's the first glimpse everyone sees when they see that documentation is instantly you're illegal. But they don't know your background. They don't know your history. They don't know anything about you.
SHAPIRO: So can you tell us how you feel about your relationship to this country, this country that has been your home for as much of your life as you can remember?
ANTONIO: Well, honestly, Ari, like, my relationship with this country, it's, you know, it's strong. I grew up here. I've been here since I was literally like two, three months old. I don't have no - absolutely zero memory of anywhere else. And like I said, I want to work, which is a complete oxymoron is that I want to work for the government. I want to work with the government. I want to help people out. I want to help the community out and stuff like that. And it's just like, no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I put my effort, my work, my money, my time, you know, I have to work 10 times harder than the other person just because of my documentation or because of my color. And it's upsetting because the only country I've ever - I know and know everything about, you know, doesn't want to accept me because of documentation, because of I'm slightly tanner than everybody else, because I speak Spanish. That's just ridiculous to me. You know, it makes me think differently about the people that run the country and people that really believe they're true hard Americans because that's not what American is.
SHAPIRO: So after all these years of having temporary protections, what do you want to see from lawmakers now?
ANTONIO: I want to see the ability to actually get my citizenship or permanently be able to stay here. I'm tired of having to renew every two years so I can continue to work - or having to renew every two years and then after those two years are up, that they cancel it, then I just don't know what I would do in a situation like that. So I think, you know, having the path to citizenship would be very beneficial for everybody in this situation.
SHAPIRO: Well, Antonio, it's been great to talk to you again.
Thank you so much.
ANTONIO: Yeah, thank you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Antonio is 21 years old. He is a DACA recipient and a firefighter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.