Local woman afraid with loss of DACA she’ll be deported
Lately, Karina Velasco thinks about her two-year-old daughter more than ever. If Velasco is deported to Mexico – a country she barely remembers and where she has no family – she wants her daughter with her.
But her husband, who, like their child is a United States citizen, wants the little girl to remain with him and grow up in America.
“The one person who drives me to fight is my daughter. I wouldn’t want her to live without her mother. I want her to be strong and grow up to be a person who is compassionate and willing to help others.”
When Velasco’s parents left Mexico with her and her brother, she was 14 years old and hadn’t seen her parents in six years as they strove for a new life for the family. Then, one day, she found herself in America, thanks to the family reunification program for unaccompanied minors.
“It was not our decision to leave,” she said of herself and her brother.
The University of Maryland graduate is a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient. While her DACA eligibility won’t expire until April 2019, President Donald Trump’s call to end the program in six months makes her very nervous.
That also is true of a 21-year-old woman who left Indonesia with her family when she was four-and-a-half years old. The University of Maryland graduate’s DACA benefits expire in November of 2018.
There are just two of about 800,000 DACA recipients, who are also known as “Dreamers.” There are nearly 9,800 DACA recipients in Maryland. According to CASA de Maryland, ending DACA would cost the state more than $509 million in annual GDP losses.
By agreeing to go on the record, these Dreamers left behind their life in the shadows for a chance to work and study in America without fear of deportation. As DACA stipulates, they all are in at least high school and have lived in America continuously since at least June 15, 2007. None of them have criminal records. They work or go to school; many of them do both.
“For us to be able to come this far, we had to be law-abiding citizens,” said Velasco of Takoma Park. “I pay taxes. I have a good paying job, and one-third of my paycheck goes to taxes.”
The Montgomery Blair High School graduate is “very disappointed” that, once again, her life has been turned upside down and she hopes Congress will help her stay.
Velasco is not worried about herself, she said. Instead, she “will continue fighting” to stay in this country, for herself and for others.
Living in Mexico would be strange, she said. All she really remembers about her native country is that she rarely saw her parents as they worked two or three jobs or lived somewhere far away. The one image she will never forget is that of “the hope in my grandmother’s eyes” when we left Mexico, she said.
The Indonesian woman, who asked that her name not be used, said her family fled Indonesia in 2000 when sectarian fighting and riots filled the streets. Her father had lived in Maryland as a child and had even attended Montgomery College while his father – her grandfather – worked at the Indonesian Embassy.
All the woman remembers is her mother saying they were leaving. Her youngest sibling had not even celebrated her first birthday at the time.
She lives in Germantown with her family. “We are kind of just going on with our lives. We are just kind of pushing it aside,” she said of the possibility of deportation.
“Still, it’s something you have in the back of your mind. We’ve actually talked about it as a family,” said the Muslim woman, who wears a head covering.
If her parents are deported, the plan is to take their children who are not citizens with them and leave behind the 15-year-old who was born here. They have made plans for community members to take her in.
Returning to Indonesia would be difficult, she admitted.
She is confused as to whether the few memories she has of her native country are real or are they just from the stories her parents have told her and the photos they have shown her.
“I can barely speak the language,” she said.
For those who wish her deported, she said, “I’m human. I’ve been trying to live a normal life. I am just like any other 21-year-old, straight out of college and trying to find a job.
“I’m no threat to anyone. I’ve lived here all my life. I don’t know anything else.”