Agatha Pacheco

‘My Dreams Are in Limbo’: A Seattle Dreamer Grapples With Her Future

While I am not defined by DACA, much of what defines me is thanks to the Obama-era program.

The day after election night I did what I do every morning: I woke up and took the light rail to school. But the light rail felt different that day. It was dead silent and perhaps somewhere someone heard the whimpers I was trying to contain deep in my throat.

Tuesday felt a lot like that. Except instead of being on the light rail I was in San Francisco driving full speed ahead toward Seattle, toward home, through a thick fog of wildfire smoke. The world around me was on fire. Because finally after months of anxiously awaiting a verdict on the future of the DACA program, my nightmare came true and my dreams are in limbo.

While I am not defined by DACA, much of what defines me is thanks to the Obama-era program. Without DACA I would not have had the financial stability to attend the University of Washington, where I have dedicated myself to becoming a journalist. I would not have learned how to toss pizza at Pagliacci’s, I would have never fished salmon in Bristol Bay, and most importantly I would have never had the courage to make those dreams a reality.

As a journalist, I’ve pursued the stories of undocumented youth, because I know what it’s like to feel out of place and to be represented by a number that’s tossed around by the political pundits who were lucky enough to be born on the right side of the border. But 800,000 of us are struggling with uncertainty, and facing reality is hard when you’re not sure what to expect.

How will I continue writing about the city I’ve called home since I was 3? How will I make a living? Will I ever see the peach sky of Bristol Bay’s never ending sunsets again? What will I do if I get deported? What of my family?

These thoughts and questions exhaust me. I’ve spent so much of my time, my life, trying to figure these things out, but for a moment DACA put my worries to rest. The program gave me hope that not all was lost.

But today I am tired. I am tired of trying to prove myself productive enough, smart enough, human enough. And yet I will continue moving forward because that’s all I’ve ever seen the immigrants in my life do. Siguele chambeando. Keep working.

It reminds me of something my captain told me after a hard day at sea. “don’t stress Agatha, skill comes with time, but you’re a hard worker and you can’t teach that,” he said.

That single comment led me to confess my status to my captain. I was the first DACA person he had ever met and there I was, a 5’1” girl on his boat in the middle of Bristol Bay working her ass off for a glimpse of the world.

Now, with the news that DACA, the status that gave me the opportunity to get an education, become a published writer, and fish one of the world’s most productive fisheries, will be terminated, I feel more uncomfortable than I ever did fishing on that boat, battered around by rough winds and choppy waves.

In six months, DACA will be done and I will no longer be protected from deportation. In nine months, I will have graduated from UW with a double major in political science and journalism, but no work permit to apply them.

I am so used to this feeling of illegitimacy that I am neither mad or sad. I am simply tired. More tired than any amount of time spent working at sea.

As immigrants, we do not have the courage to show weakness, only the will to continue to work for the life we’ve built here. Yes, my status will be taken away from me, but I’ve been here before. I will return to the circumstance that all non-Dreamer undocumented immigrants find themselves in.

There is nowhere I’d rather face this reality than here, in Seattle. We will survive as long as Seattle continues to come together like they did at El Centro de la Raza Tuesday afternoon. Rally not only for the Dreamers, but the 11 million undocumented immigrants we call our moms, dads, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, and friends. Without them we would not be who we are to begin with, just like I wouldn’t be who I am without Seattle.

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