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Commentary Immigration

I’m a DACA recipient. My future lies in your vote

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By Melissa Martinez

The “American Dream” is something I know a little bit about. As an immigrant who came to this country as a small child, my parents made sacrifices to provide a better future for my brother and I, and for the last 17 years we have called El Paso home.

Melissa Martinez

My family is here. My friends are here. I am a student at the University of Texas at El Paso studying mathematics. As a DACA recipient, I fear my own accomplishments and contributions will be undone if our current administration is re-elected and immigration reform is not prioritized. 

And that’s why I am calling on every voter to keep me — and the 110,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals who call Texas home — in mind when you head to the polls between now and Nov. 3.

I came to the United States when I was just 5 years old.  I began kindergarten at Surratt Elementary not speaking English or knowing a single person in my class. Everything was new –

the people, the buildings, the books.  My parents instilled in us the opportunities we had as a family — a chance to start our own business, and a chance for my brother and I to receive a quality education.

As we approach Election Day, Dreamers may not have the right to vote, but you do. We need legislators in place who will fight for us and ensure we have a permanent path to citizenship. A DREAM Act will extend legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, such as myself. It would allow us to keep working, and for our state to retain its talent and stay competitive economically.

Punishing immigrants and their families goes against our values as a community, a state and a country. Thousands of Dreamers, like myself, have grown up in Texas, graduated from our schools, and become home and business owners. Our laws should recognize how integral we are in Texas, and how we are better because of, not in spite of, these individuals.

In fact, DACA recipients play a major role in Texas’ economy. We create a positive fiscal impact of $3.4 billion each year and are key to the success of Texas’ economy and workforce. More than 8,000 Texas Dreamers own businesses, creating jobs for more Texans. If DACA were terminated, our state would lose 110,000 jobs and $6 billion in gross domestic product.

I will graduate from UTEP in a few months with a mathematics degree; my brother has done the same and is working at an oil company in Houston. I’m currently working at a non-profit specializing in human and border rights protection and continue to contribute to the state GDP, and pay taxes that go to build our roads, keep the lights on in our schools and our communities flourishing. I join the other Texas DACA recipients who pay $412.8 million in state and local taxes and contribute to state and local economies.

If there were a permanent solution to the DACA program, Texas would see greater economic contributions by more DACA recipients like me because we would have the stability necessary to get jobs, buy cars, start our own businesses, and help the economy recover from the pandemic.

I go to sleep every night worried about my future unless Congress and the next administration pass a DREAM Act. Dreamers deserve the right to stay and we deserve a right to citizenship.  We are your neighbors and coworkers. 

As Texans cast their ballots these weeks, vote for representatives that will put sensible immigration and economic policies in place to ensure a brighter future for our state.

Cover photo: Melissa Martinez, second from right, joined a coalition of Texas DACA recipients in Washington in March 2019 as they participated in congressional meetings sponsored by FWD.us to advocate lawmakers to support the DREAM Act. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Martinez)

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