In this editorial, 19-year-old Gabriela Hernández, who came to the United States from El Salvador with her mother at the age of four, reacts to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address. She is a DACA recipient.
On January 30, I had the honor of seeing the state of the Union as a guest of MP Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland. He kindly invited me as a representative of all the young people in his district and throughout the country who, despite their hard work and education, no longer have the time to live and work legally in this country.
When I entered the chamber of the House of Representatives, where elected officials have the power to enact laws that will affect the rest of my life, I was stunned by the environment and the people around me. But as the night wore on, I felt hurt and dismayed when I realized that the people who were by my side, applauding and encouraging the president, are the ones who want me out of this country. They applauded when Trump blamed undocumented immigration for many ills in this country.
My family and I have always struggled for success. It is our nature, we came here to work hard and have the opportunity to improve our lot in life, which is impossible in the native country of my parents, El Salvador. There is war and struggle in El Salvador. A large part of society is dominated by gangs, which were imported to El Salvador by people who joined gangs in the United States.
I was raised to be ambitious, but my ambitions are not possible under an administration that threatens my basic human rights. Trump used coded language to talk about crimes committed by members of the immigrant community since the day he announced his candidacy, which confused immigrants with being inherently criminal. The truth is that these crimes do not reflect the majority of those who come to the United States from other countries. For example, the immigration and customs gang unit arrested 114,434 people last year, although only 429 were members of the MS-13 gang, a group Trump mentioned at his address. This is less than less than 1% of total arrests.
I know a different story about immigrants. My parents may have come here without papers, but we are workers.
Fifteen years ago, my mother decided that she wanted to come to the United States to offer a better quality of life in this country of opportunity. My sister was born here three years later and as a single mother of two, my mother worked in difficult conditions, including construction, before founding a small cleaning company. I saw how hard she worked, and I worked every summer cleaning homes with her before starting college too. Every day I was painful and exhausted. With DACA, I was able to start a job that helps me pay for my tuition, but my mother can not work in other jobs without a license.
I graduated from high school in three years and started college in advance to obtain a number of basic credits. I am a volunteer at a community organization called CASA and I have a part time job. I am not an exception: I represent the majority of my community, but the words spoken last night by the President are only hastening and irritating those who do not know us.
Even though it hurt and angered me after the State of the Union speech, I think there are people, especially young people like me, who support my community and do not believe what ‘he says. We will move forward no matter what Trump says. I may not be allowed to vote because of my condition, but I will protect and fight for my community and I hope that those who can vote will help me to return to this country where people from all walks of life can feel good and live in peace.