Erik Gamboa: Save DACA and save thousands of lives like mine


Last November, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as part of the Trump administration’s two-year-long fight to end this incredibly popular and successful program. As we enter a new year and new decade, I am filled with uncertainty and anxiety. In just six short months, when the Supreme Court is expected to announce their decision on DACA, my world may dramatically change and I could be forced to live in the shadows or be taken away from the only home I know.

DACA changed my life, and those of nearly 15,000 fellow Dreamers living in Colorado. DACA gave us the freedom to emerge from the shadows, and live a vibrant life of hope and opportunity. But, more importantly, DACA finally let us live without fear in our own country.

I came to the U.S. from Mexico just after I turned one year old in 1983 and my family settled in Aurora, Colorado when I was 12 years old. For the last 36 years, the United States is the only place I’ve ever called home— but my story isn’t atypical. Research conducted by the Center for American Progress found that the average DACA recipient arrived in the United States in 1999, at the age of seven.

Before DACA, my dreams of pursuing a college education or joining the military were complicated by my immigration status, so I worked for our family business for several years. During this time, I helped expand our painting company into home remodeling and eventually became a father to my wonderful daughter. I had a lot on the line— a career, a family and a future, so every move I made was with caution. I knew that something as minor as a traffic violation could put my family in harm’s way if the authorities discovered my status.

When DACA was enacted I was anxious and skeptical to put my life on the line and hand over all of my personal information to the government. After almost a year of putting it off, and essentially putting my future on hold, I decided it was time for me to step out of the shadows and seek a better life for my family and for myself. So I applied for DACA.

Once I received my approval I was overcome by a wave of relief. After so many years of working in home construction to make ends meet, I would finally be able to obtain my real estate license and help expand our business to include real estate investment. With DACA, my life has changed in immeasurable ways, but most of all it has given me freedom to live my life without fear, and travel outside my small realm. I have been able to visit my family around the country and explore cities without the burden of having to drive thousands of miles.

Rescinding DACA, as the Trump administration is adamantly pursuing, will leave my life and future hanging in the balance. Since January of 2018, Trump’s decision to end DACA made its way from one federal court to the next; most of which ruled that the administration violated the law by ending the program in a way that was “arbitrary and capricious.”

A negative decision by the Supreme Court, would lead to my entire world being ripped out from under me. Unfortunately, I knew this was a possibility and when Trump was elected, I had to have a conversation with my daughter about my legal status, potential deportation, and what the future holds for us. It was an incredibly difficult and frightening conversation, but it was a reality that had to be addressed.

Witnessing terror creep into immigrant communities has been heartbreaking. My daughter and I have been able to bond by meeting with others in our community and sharing our story. I have also found personal fulfillment in giving back to my community. During tax season, I have volunteered with an organization to provide free tax preparation services for low-income and Spanish-speaking communities in the area. I have also volunteered several nights a week as an ESL teacher. While there is a lot of uncertainty on the horizon, it has been reassuring to see the great resolve and fighting spirit among our neighbors and friends.

Dreamers are an integral part of communities across the country and are Americans in every sense. Terminating DACA would inflict immeasurable harm— not only to the lives of DACA recipients and their families, but to their local economies and communities. The Supreme Court is expected to announce their ruling in the case by next summer. As the nine justices consider their decision, I implore them to affirm the decisions of the lower courts to allow Dreamers like myself to continue to thrive in the country we call home.

Erik Gamboa lives in Aurora.