Editor’s note: This is one of a series of community profiles by Boyle Heights Beat youth reporters in response to President Trump’s decision to rescind the DACA program announced Sept. 6.
Elsy’s mother brought her to this country when she was four years old to pursue what she believed to be the “American Dream.”
Her mother was a hard worker and tried to create a good life for Elsy, but became severely ill. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, when Elsy was 11, and died a year later.
“When my mom passed away, I felt like my world came down, and I didn’t know what to do,” says Elsy, now 20. “You see, my mother was everything to me, both mother and father. She was the only thing I had left.”
After her mother’s death, Elsy stayed with her aunt’s family, though she never felt welcome. At 12, she was forced to cook for herself. She wasn’t welcomed at the family table, so she ate alone.
Eventually her relatives turned their backs on her. When she was 14, her 21-year-old brother took over her care. Also undocumented, he struggled to create a life for the two of them.
“It was my sophomore year in high school when both of us lost our home,” Elsy recalls. “We didn’t have anywhere to go. We didn’t have food. It was something that I thought I would have never have to go through.”
A friend helped out with housing for a few months while the siblings got back on their feet.
When the Obama Administration made DACA available in 2012, Elsy thought she had a chance for a new life. “In the dark times, that was the one thing that kept me going, that left me thinking, ‘This is the opportunity that [I] have,’” she says.
When she was granted DACA and a work permit, the first thing she did was get a job. She was able to help her brother with bills and rent. Now, five years later, she’s able to afford an apartment with her brother, food, clothes and a car, something she wasn’t able to do before DACA.
“DACA is something that I could honestly say saved my life,” she says. “Because of DACA, we are in a better place now.” But with the future of DACA uncertain, she fears that her life is going to go back to the way it was before.
“In six months we don’t know what’s going to happen to us. The fear of not having a home and not having food is coming back, and it’s making me panic,” she says.
Photo above by Jackie Ramírez for Boyle Heights Beat.
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