OPINION: DACA deadline means Dreamers are still holding their breath

For so many undocumented people, their American dreams have turned into a legal nightmare.

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Activists rally for the passage of a ‘clean’ Dream Act, one without additional security or enforcement measures, outside the New York office of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), January 17, 2018 in New York City. The Dream Act, first introduced in 2001, is a proposed bill that would allow undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children to stay in the country legally. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Today marks the original deadline for President Donald Trump’s termination of DACA for the 70,000 DREAMERS. It also marks the day I had originally hoped would be a celebration of a DREAM act or some similar legislation that kept DREAMERS protected

Many of my friends are DACAmented with current valid work permits, but some are DACAmented without valid work permits. For those of my friends whose work permits have expired or are set to expire this month and don’t have the funds to renew, it has been heartbreaking. Roughly 13,090 people will lose their work permits in March and another 5,340 will expire in April, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

I have heard firsthand stories from Dreamers who have had to resign from their jobs, stop driving because their licenses are no longer valid, and how had to stop going to school because they were afraid of ICE showing up on campus. And while many activist friends and families will march on Washington today in solidarity with Dreamers, in demand of a Clean Dream Act, we are all still asking ourselves the same questions: have we done enough to make our voices relevant and is the United States government finally ready to give us a chance?

In the words of my mother and countless other activists, delay is never denial. It is with this spirit that we will continue the fight. We have to continue to join these marches and work on various efforts to elevate the stories of those DREAMERS who cannot be heard or who are afraid to speak up. We have to tell the stories of those who are so bold, they chose to be arrested and go to jail and possibly deported just so that we can all begin living and breathing normally.

For most undocumented people, especially Black immigrants, being undocumented is akin to holding your breath until it is safe to exhale. Letting go means coming out of the shadows and being unafraid of becoming a target for ICE. Exhaling means finally getting a piece of paper to validate your existence and your right to live in this country—a place constructed and maintained by immigrants. Exhaling means having the opportunity to become gainfully employed where you don’t have to worry about resigning because you need to renew your work permit. We Dreamers are simply asking for a chance to breathe.

The next government funding deadline to fix DACA is scheduled for March 23. I already know what my plans are: to hope in America and hope for a chance to finally catch my breath.

Dr. Nancy Adossi is an independent business consultant and adjunct professor at the University of Houston. Her story about being young, Black and undocumented was previous published on TheGrio.com