Daniel U., was born in Nayarit, Mexico, was brought to the United States at the age of three.
“All I remember is that we drove through the gates of the border and I did not know what was going on. It’s a blur. Although I do remember some memories of Mexico, the beaches, streets, and the roads made out of rocks.”
His mother, a single parent of three, brought Daniel and his sisters to the US for better opportunities. For undocumented people, work is tough to find. Some go months without having a stable income. Daniel remembers his mother not being able to find a job when he was a toddler.
“I remember one time in the neighborhood that I grew up in, my mother would wash at the local laundromat. There was a fried chicken restaurant nearby, and I remember asking my mom if she can buy me some food from that restaurant. She started crying because she couldn’t buy me a plate of food. As my mother tried to get quarters for the laundry machine, the coin dispenser at the laundromat broke down and accidentally gave her a ten-dollar bill. With the ten-dollar bill, she was able to buy me the food I was craving.”
Daniel recalls this happening when he overheard his mother sharing the story while a friend who came to visit. Reflecting on how much she had to work for her children. He remembers his mother crying while sharing the story.
“It’s one of those stories that you don’t remember until someone brings it up again. It brought back that memory and it's one of those stories that places your current situation into perspective.”
After visiting Mexico at the age of 8, Daniel fell in love with the freedom he felt in his country. Growing up in the United States, Daniel would always comment on how much he wanted to live in Mexico. He likes the feeling of not fearing authorities. As Daniel got older, it became harder for his mother to find employment as an undocumented person. After Daniel’s mother tried her hardest to make ends meet, she had to break the news they were going to move back to Nayarit, Mexico. Living conditions were getting difficult for his mother. Daniel, being fifteen years old, and going through his sophomore year of high school, did not like the idea of moving back to Mexico.
“It was complete hell for my mom because she was undocumented.
My mother told me we were moving back to Nayarit. I was not too fond of the thought of leaving my school, friends, and future behind. I told her ‘I like school a lot.’ The way I saw it, my whole life was over. I asked myself, how are all those years of learning about the United States going to help me in a school in Mexico?”
Daniel convinced his mother to let him stay in the US with his older sister. His mother left for Mexico to live with her other daughter and granddaughter.
“It was tough for me. I was devastated when my mother left because she is my best friend. I have no secrets with my mother.”
Daniel went through the remaining years of high school without his mother’s support. He was able to obtain DACA at the age of 16. By having deferred action, he was able to support himself through high school by working part-time.
“Although my sister helped me through the time my mother left, we did not get along so well. I don’t think my sister was ready to raise a teenager.”
He suppressed many of his emotions through the rest of his high school career. “It took a toll on my grades, and I rebelled.” Daniel found a haven through after-school programs and his close friends. He began to come to terms with his sexuality as a self-identifying bisexual man. Having the support of his friends helped him get through the hard times he was facing.
“I was accepted for being bisexual by my close friends. I could be however I wanted with them and felt fine, but not at home, that’s where it was like ‘we are fine with you being bisexual let’s just not talk about it.’”
After graduating high school, Daniel was able to attend community college through a scholarship with Price Charities. He studied Zoology for about six months, but personal circumstances made him leave school. Daniel juggled a full-time job and his scholarship requirements until it started getting harder for him. Daniel faced depression and anxiety from his suppressed emotions. He decided to focus on working on himself and getting back on track.
Like many DACA recipients, Daniel has had to choose between working full time or going to school full-time.
Daniel feels he tries to a be a strong, confident person for the people around him. At times that’s not often the case. “Sometimes you can’t be a strong person while dealing with your immigration status, sexual identity and past traumas, it’s really important to have these kinds of conversations.” Daniel has found healing of his complexities by being vocal about them with his family and friends. Being in the DACA program, Daniel has been able to obtain the simplest forms of documentation. “I was happy that I would be able to receive an ID, get a bank account and be able to travel to Los Angeles without the fear of the San Clemente checkpoint.” DACA has allowed undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows. “I envision myself in different parts of the world infecting people with my personality.”