Ivy Teng Lei came to America as a child and she is undocumented.she is protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program that Trump may repeal.
This is her story:
I was seven years old when my family and I arrived at JFK Airport in New York City on a visitor’s visa in 1998. Our visa eventually expired and with no way of renewing our papers in the United States, we decided to stay on without documents after falling in love with this country and its promise for a better future.
“Living in the shadows” is a very accurate way of describing our way of life. We never caused trouble, never asked for more than what we were given, and were perpetually afraid to attract anyone’s attention.
People like me – who came to America as children and are currently without papers – are the reason that the Obama administration introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program in 2012. Daca protected us from deportation and over 800,000 young people currently benefit from it.
I followed the rules of the American Dream as if they were my Bible
When the program was first introduced, I was hesitant to apply because it meant that I would have to expose my immigration status to the government. In the application I was asked for my travel documents, where I lived in the last 10 years, my education record and fingerprints for an extensive background check.
Once I was approved, I was given temporary relief from deportation, a two-year work permit, and a nine-digit social security number that I can use to work, get health insurance and travel domestically.
It’s been 5 years since I received this protected status. Today, I worry that my worst fears will come true and the government will use the information I gave against me. The Trump administration, by all accounts, intends to escalate its psychological warfare against us by terminating Daca. I am deeply afraid for what that will mean for my future.
Like so many others in my situation, I followed the rules of the American Dream as if they were my Bible. Since we were very poor, my parents couldn’t afford babysitters so my siblings and I spent most of our days in the garment factory where our mother worked. Still we worked hard and stayed afloat.
Since graduating from college I have gone from working at a large marketing firm, to working at The Gap in global marketing and now I am employed at a tech start-up. I also try to give back to my community by serving on the board of my alma mater at Baruch College as well as on various non-profit boards. I am literally living the American Dream.
However, I am not the only immigrant giving back to America. From the farmers on the fields, to Daca recipients like me in corporate sectors, studies after studies have shown that the contribution of undocumented migrants far exceeds what we’re eligible to receive. With demand of labor outpacing supply, our economy profits from the existence of undocumented immigrants – yet it simultaneously denies us our basic rights.
But there are more than economic reasons for this madness to end. Our country was founded upon the very principals the Trump administration has waged a war against. Now, America risks forgetting that immigrants are what make our country great.
If this program is taken away, 800,000 of us will lose our jobs, the economy will suffer and the information that we have given the government will paint a target on our backs. Deportation officials may come after us and take us away – despite the fact that a majority of Americans favor giving us a path to some sort of legal status.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I stepped foot on American soil. Every single day my American identity has been challenged. People like me have become a political football thrown around with no end in sight. Today, my fate is in the president’s hands. I hope he does what is right for the country.