People from all over the world come to America with the hope and dreams of achieving success. And while success comes in many forms, it's well known here that if you work hard, you are guaranteed an opportunity at achieving the American Dream.
But for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, even if you work harder than everyone else, your dreams remain just that: dreams.
In 2012, when the immigrant youth community won DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), I never thought that this temporary USCIS program would be a key that would open so many doors of opportunities for me. In 2014, for the first time in 21 years, I was able to travel outside the US. I was able to get a drivers’ license, and find a rewarding job as the program director of TheDream.US, a college success and scholarship program where I get to see hundreds of young people achieve their dream of going to college. And today, because of DACA, I was able to buy my first home.
As a child, I used to imagine what my life would be like as an adult. I imagined going to college, becoming Dr. Pacheco, having a career, buying a house, and building a family of my own. I've worked hard to achieve those goals, sometimes working twice as hard than others. But as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., hard work does not mean equal success.
Though I graduated in the top 3% of my class, I couldn’t receive the merit scholarships that I had earned. Nor was I able to apply for financial aid, grants or loans. I was on my own. I went to college as an international student, though I had studied and lived in the U.S since the third grade.
Buying my first home today brings me closer to achieving my life-long goals.
DACA leveled the playing field for me, and as a result, I am able to contribute more to the U.S. economy. As a woman and an immigrant, I feel proud when I do my taxes. Yes, I sometimes grumble when I see how much of my hard-earned money goes toward the IRS, but I am reminded and thankful that this money is going to pay for the social security benefits of our country’s rapidly retiring baby boomers, toward our young people’s education, and other important social programs.
Now my heart warms at the thought of painting my new house with my husband. I will set roots in this new home with my future children. They will run around the house, and they will most likely color the walls with Sharpie markers, the same walls my husband and I are about to start painting.
One-sixth of all economic activity in the United States is made up by the housing industry. You don't have to be an economist to understand that immigrants buying homes, paying taxes, and being successful are good for the economy. After the housing market took a hit during the Great Recession, neighborhoods began to deteriorate as foreclosed homes sat empty without any buyers. According to Pew, unauthorized immigrants make up more than 5% of the U.S. labor force.
This works force generates nearly $12 billion each year in state and local tax revenue. Immigrants don't just build homes; they live in them too. Perhaps, if states like Texas and Florida wanted to accelerate the housing recovery or help their state increase the number of people who can buy houses, they should allow the DACA extension and DAPA programs to move forward. A recent report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that if the Supreme Court unfreezes the immigration executive action policies, state and local tax coffers would increase by an additional $805 million each year.
While the benefits that DACA has given me and more than 700,000 other immigrants are temporary and partial, they have been crucial to our personal and community development. I look forward to seeing the Supreme Court side with the American people and the U.S.’ best interest by allowing the expansion of DACA and the parents of U.S. citizen and resident children to apply for these programs. Furthermore, we look to the leaders of this nation to put divisive politics aside and once and for all see the tremendous economic gains of bringing 11 million immigrants into the light.
Maria Gabriela "Gaby" Pacheco is an immigrant rights advocate from Miami, Florida. She gained national attention in 2006 when Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) detained her family. In 2010, she and three others walked from Miami to Washington, D.C. to bring attention to the dire need for immigration reform and a cease to the deportations. In 2012, she spearheaded the effort that led to the announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.