They are quiet when they are with me. Occasionally there will be a brief conversation, but our difference in ages seems to create a chasm that presupposes there is little in common to talk about. So being the good introvert that I am, I don’t press for a conversation to happen.
For the last two years, I’ve been taking them to their biometrics appointments at the USCIS Support Center. Basically, it is a ‘check-in’ appointment where their fingerprints are taken and their address is confirmed. Not sure what else happens, since I am not allowed ‘into the back’ with them.
They’re good kids. Regular kids. Normal kids. On one level, they are occupied with the everyday stuff of teenagers. Music, videos, comedians, things that make up the normal environment that a teenager lives in. They both are working as well as going to school, helping support the family.
But she and her family have lived anything BUT a normal experience. Three years ago, she developed an infection that settled in her brain and caused her to go into a coma for the better part of a year, and it has taken her over a year of rehab to get back to near-normal. But they have weathered that storm, and have come through it with grace and courage.
They’re both part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (D.A.C.A.). You may have heard about it in the news recently. Neither one of them remember much if anything from their parents’ home country. They were too young. They ARE home. They are more comfortable speaking English. They are assimilated. They are ‘American’ in the sense that it is most commonly used here in the United States, meaning ‘of or belonging to the United States of America’.
Getting into the program wasn’t just a matter of writing their names down on a piece of paper. There were conditions. Requirements. No criminal record of any kind. Enrolled in high school, college, or the military. In exchange, they get a valid social security number and a work permit and an ID card that identifies them as under temporary protected status. They are not eligible for welfare benefits of any kind, nor are they eligible for federal student aid, nor are they given a path to citizenship. Technically, they are in deportation proceedings, but those proceedings are being put off. Postponed. Paused.
With all that, they are still just putting one foot in front of the other, taking care of themselves and their families, building their lives like anyone else. Literally, like ANYONE else. They are dreaming of a future for themselves that they can almost taste. Full of promise, hope, and expectations. They are optimists. They have already faced seemingly insurmountable odds and survived.
It is a privilege – an honor – (and humbling) to know them, to call them friends, to call them family.