Series Part One: Voices of Delmarva Dreamers
DOVER, Del. – Homar Rodriguez from Luvianos, México, Indira Islas from Guerrero, México, Muhammed Jah from Gambia, West Africa and Chelsea from Nairobi, Kenya all share one thing in common, a struggle for a better life.
“Sometimes I feel unwanted to a country that I actually help contribute to because we pretty much do the same thing an average American citizen do,” said Muhammed Jah.
These young immigrants set foot in the U.S. when they were only kids not knowing the challenges that laid ahead of them; the decision to come here made by their parents with hopes of a better life.
“Gang members broke into our home and they threatened my dad,” said Indira Islas.
“They pointed a gun to his head and that’s the only time I remember that violence, but obviously I was too young to process, to process all of that, but now that I look back it was pretty traumatic,” said Islas.
Growing up for them was different because unlike the other children that surrounded them they were undocumented and although all but one is now covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) they tell us life still is not easy.
“I was told multiple times that you’ll never be able to go to college, you will not be able to do this or that, you won’t be able to get driver’s license, you can’t benefit from the things that you’ve been here all your life and your friends can do,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez whose family came from México said Dreamers often face discrimination because of their legal status and because of where they come from, and even though he considers the U.S. to be his home he said some people are quick to turn him down.
For others like Jah, it is even worse.
“I’m doing the right thing going to school, having a job, staying out of trouble, but at the same time I’m being quoted as the bad person and for me it’s like I’m an immigrant and a Muslim at the same time,” said Jah.
But, the sense of not belonging is not the only thing Dreamers say makes life hard. The fear of losing their families to deportation is something they say weighs on them every single day along with the fear of being deported themselves if DACA were to end.
For Chelsea the fear looms even more because unlike the others she is not protected under DACA and for that reason she only wanted to share her first name with us. A junior in high school Chelsea was one of many who had hoped to get into DACA, but had those dreams dashed when the Trump administration decided to begin to phase the program out in 2017.
“It was hard because it seemed like a glimmer of hope and then a lot of the sudden it was shut down,” said Chelsea.
Now like many others Chelsea said she is stuck in limbo, her dreams for things like college put on hold because of her status. But, these accounts are just a few of the struggles that immigration attorney Steven Planzer said he hears everyday, and he adds the weight of those struggles on his clients is hard to watch.
“I do see a lot of depression in a lot of my clients, clients who really are just so afraid,” said Planzer.
“Sometimes they really don’t want to talk to me, they come here reluctantly,” said Planzer.
The positive though is that with an attorney like Planzer fighting the battles in court, these Dreamers are still fighting to chase their dreams.