What does DACA mean to you? By Brandon Vela

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DACA means food on the table. DACA means excitement to look forward to going to work everyday. DACA means self confidence to walk out in public without fear. DACA means motivation to self challenge ourselves to be better in our tasks than we were yesterday. DACA means peace at mind. DACA means self reliance; therefore being able to provide for ourselves. DACA means security. DACA means education.

​DACA means economic growth. DACA means the house Roberto purchased in Tuscaloosa.DACA means the Mercedes Jenny from Bessemer can afford.DACA means investment. DACA means entrepreneurship I can partake in. DACA means second chance… at life! DACA means friendships and relationships with built with people whom we may never would have met if it weren’t for daca to place us in the environment were in now.

DACA means health, we feel the need to take care of ourselves and loved ones on a physical level now feeling that we were here to stay. We saw it was no longer unreachable to work in a place we feel welcomed, and invest in assets, buy a home, own a car. Healthy thoughts filled our minds and healthy goals were now within reach. We realized we could live longer, healthier lives and then with DACA; prosperous lives.

DACA means strength to fight for our dreams. While here recently we felt the “suckerpunch” of a decision hit us. Almost 800.000 of us, we will not be deprived of these meaning of DACA in our lives. Because DACA still means: POWER. Power to change. Power to fight. Power to continue to grow knowledgeable. Power to thrive! We are immigrants, We are DACA, We are here to STAY.

My name is Brandon Vela. I am 19. I was born in Mexico and have been a DACA recipient since 2014. And like all of us present today, it was not easy getting here. I remember the first time “status” was a “thing”. In 2010 in high school I remember my friends asking me to bring my green card. I was a seventh grader.

A couple of years later, the darkest moment of my life hovered over me. I was an immigrant, living in the south, amongst a “Jim Crow” law of the modern time against immigrants. HB 56, the Hate Bill of 2012 was enacted in Alabama. At a point, you were prohibited from soliciting basic utilities, like electricity and water and many counties refused to accept payment for tag renewals. Racial profiling was not uncommon. I felt vulnerable and afraid. In school it was a theme I dare not touch. A few teachers even asked me my social status out of curiosity. I remember formally joining immigrant support group ACIJ. After attending a meeting at 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, the significance of that monument, not just a building AND the welcoming feeling shared with we immigrants gave me enough courage to join in and become a member.

A few years later I traveled to Washington DC to march. I saw the acting President at the time. It was a surreal feeling. After fighting, demanding change, reaching out to local law enforcement, and countless meetings and petitions. There was a change, HB 56 was gone.

Fast forward years later and there I am sitting on the sofa with my family as I receive news of DACA. I was ineligible to apply at the time, but as soon as I turned 15 I applied. I remember walking out of HICA office feeling relieved. I was a step closer to being… normal. DACA has allowed me to live comfortably. I worked as an entrepreneur, providing of myself. Traveling without fear to reach my audience. Im now a sales rep, and soon with high hopes of returning the entrepreneur lifestyle. I have enough to support myself economically and invest back to my community. I don’t have fear driving or traveling. I have peace of mind.

Thanks to DACA I feel I can do anything I put my mind to. My dad told me last night, what ever it is your thinking about right now, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, if you can do it, go for it! I challenge you all to keep reminding the public why America is great, and who makes it great! Thank you.