WORDS: MONICA BOCANEGRA | ART: NUSHA ASHJAEE

I was heading back to my AirBnB after exploring New York when I first heard on Twitter the news of the coming DACA rescind.

I didn’t want to believe it, as I was on vacation and everything was nearly perfect. Earlier in the week, I had met with a group of international Travel Latina explorers whom I had met on Instagram. I was the only undocumented person in the group with my travels only being within U.S borders. We spoke about immigration and other issues affecting our community. I didn’t think for a minute that my life would be changing and that I become directly affected by this issue.

DACA is vital to the survival of my family, friends, and the strangers I have met along the way.

The memo was officially sent on the morning of September 5th. My head started spinning, as I was sitting in my car about to walk into work. I had to put on a brave face. Being a social worker is not easy and you can’t bring your personal life into work no matter how much both may overlap. Nonetheless, I went to my desk, and the first thing I thought about was the kids that I work with and my cases; my harder cases in which the parents rely on me. I have something not everyone has which is a rapport with my parents and the kids. I thought about everything I would need to do to make sure my families don’t suffer, for the decisions of our president. Simultaneously, I thought about my brother who is working and in school. I thought about my mom, with big medical issues and the fact that she doesn’t have healthcare coverage. My family relies on me as a form of financial support, which is unfair to them. Our parents deserve more than to rely on their child or children for the financial support they deserve; for their financial independence. Without this support, my family will be living below the poverty level. After the election, my dad was only working about 2 days per week for about 6 months. If it wasn’t for my work we would probably be at a food bank asking for food and getting yelled at because we took one too many eggs or yogurt. We would be back at the place I swore we would never be again. Without the support, my father will be forced to work jobs at less than a living wage. My mom will have to endure dangerous asthma attacks once again for fear of going to the doctor because the money just isn’t there. My younger brother may not be able to complete his education. Without the support DACA has offered me, I may not be able to volunteer at the Health Center after work and help the community consistently.

I am more than undocumented and I, you, we deserve more.

I refuse to be silenced now. I refuse to work 12 hour days with no breaks. I refuse to be forced back into an environment which enabled my harassment. I refuse to be scared. Since the election, I have been louder. I travel to LA, SF, Chicago, New York, Oakland and back to my little town in Northern California. This year I started traveling with a purpose. For example, in February I went to LA for the Immigration March. If a march is not available, I talk to people. I stay in neighborhoods away from gentrified areas and in neighborhoods with large immigrant communities. I use my power as a consumer to support minority-owned businesses and to speak with shop owners. I hear their stories and they hear mine. I travel to occupy spaces not meant for me. Spaces meant to make me feel little. DACA is vital to the survival of my family, friends, and the strangers I have met along the way. DACA gave me a voice.

Although I will be known as “undocumented”, I’d like to introduce you to Monica. I believe in inclusivity. I believe in the struggle that our black sibling have been going through. I stand with our transgender community, the queer community, and the Muslim community. I volunteer at the local gender center a couple times per week. I am a friend. Know your worth and demand more. I am more than undocumented and I, you, we deserve more.

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