The long road home

Marisol Mora stands outside of the STC High School. Mora found out last Thursday she will be allowed to stay in the U.S. after the Supreme Court upheld DACA on June 18. Allison Graham/NewsChronicle

Last Thursday was an emotional day that was, for some, difficult to fully describe. Marisol Mora entered the break room at her place of work and found her mom with tears in her eyes.

“You’re staying,” Marisol’s mother said to her.

The United States Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling blocked the Trump administration attempt to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is an Obama-era program that protects roughly 700,000 immigrants from deportation that were brought to the US as children and provides them with a work permit.

The 5-4 ruling was written by Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts joined Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, Breyer and Sotomayor in the decision.

Mora, a 19 year old woman who is a 2019 graduate of South Tama County High School, is a recipient of DACA and is among a group of young people referred to as “DREAMers”.

Mora was born in Mexico. When she was just five years old, she and her older brother Ray were brought to the U.S. by their grandma in July of 2006. Her parents were already living in the States.

She doesn’t remember much from the trip other than mountains, lots of walking, and a piggy back ride from the kindness of a stranger.

Growing up in Mexico was difficult. All they had in their home was a mattress.

“That was our life,” said Mora, “It was just poverty.”

Poverty was one reason Marisol and her brother were moved to America. Another reason was her parents. Marisol and her brother developed a very close relationship with their grandma who, despite her role as one of their caretakers, reminded them often that she was not their mom and not their parent. The first few years of Marisol’s life she only spoke to her parents on the phone during weekends. She said it felt like she was talking to strangers.

It was because of that, they decided to have the kids come to America.

Once they crossed the border, they rode in a beat up van from Texas to Iowa. Marisol remembers having to crouch down and pretend they were asleep.

The first time she saw her mom upon arriving in the U.S., Marisol distinctly remembers her beautiful violet hair.

Her grandma stayed for a couple of years but then went back to Mexico so Marisol and Ray could bond with their parents. They haven’t seen their grandma since 2008.

The journey to the States was difficult and since then, life has proven challenging in its own right. Mora has faced many barriers throughout her time in the U.S. For much of her childhood she didn’t even know that she was undocumented.

“All I knew was that we were different.”

She found out in middle school after she tried to apply for the college access and retention program called TRIO. You have to be a citizen to qualify.

She remembers coming home from school the day she was turned away from the TRIO program stunned and wondering who she was.

After talking it over with her parents, they explained to Marisol that she was in the United States illegally.

As a high schooler, Mora set her sights upon becoming the first member of her family to go to college. She also desperately wanted to pursue a career as a police officer. Growing up Marisol recalls an instilled fear toward the police as she worried they might take her or her family away to be deported.

Mora also shared she has a history of being hurt by men but she was unable to speak up about it because of fear of deportation. She hoped to take her experience as an immigrant and as a woman into the law enforcement field to be a helper and to break the stigma of the police as a fear-inducing agency. But more barriers stood in Marisol’s way. As she approached graduation she found that she could not apply for college financial aid through FAFSA. So she is paying for college out of pocket. Since she is not a citizen it is illegal for her to bear arms and voting is also off the table.

Mora is trying to overcome these barriers though. She is in college and has settled on studying professional photography. It’s not a passion but more of a practice that she can take with her wherever she is.

Mora received her DACA card in 2016 after going through an application process. She had to find a lawyer to file the paperwork which set her back more than $1,500. Right around the time she put in for her card, the Trump administration began indicating it would pursue phasing out the DACA program. Mora was in limbo not knowing what was going to happen. Luckily she was approved in 2016.

“It filled me with a lot of joy that I had made it through the program,” said Mora.

Now almost a year removed from her high school graduation, Mora is working 10 hours a day to help pay for her college. She knew the Supreme Court decision about DACA was coming up but didn’t want to pay much attention because she didn’t want to get her hopes up.

Last Thursday she had gone into work at 4:30 a.m. and after her mom delivered the news about the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Mora grabbed her phone and opened Facebook to see the news for herself.

“They really do want us,” Mora said.

She couldn’t fully explain the joy she felt upon hearing the news. While this is a good first step, Mora feels there is more that can be done.

She would like to see Congress make a decision if they are going to take the program away or not. Ultimately she would like to see a pathway towards citizenship for DACA recipients like herself.

“I feel American. That’s who I am,” said Mora.

She believes that if there was a pathway to citizenship it would help strengthen the economy. She hopes to see a bill written that would better help immigrants obtain citizenship. For Mora, DACA is better than nothing but residency would be better than DACA.

“This is my home, I would like to stay here,” said Mora.