DACA Recipient Writes Open Letter To America In Powerful Facebook Post

" I didn't ask to be an undocumented person."

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally announced the current administration's plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — an Obama-era initiative that has made it possible for nearly 800,000 undocumented children of immigrants to live, work, go to school, or serve in the American military without fear of deportation.

The decision spurred several moving social media posts from DACA advocates and recipients alike, and now another such post is coming to light. This time the post is from a DACA recipient and college freshman named Jicell Gracia-Ortiz, who shared her thoughts by writing a letter to America.  

Gracia-Ortiz began with a series of apologies. "I apologize for breaking the law when I was merely three years old. I apologize for stealing an American citizen's job, and I apologize for supposedly costing taxpayers money for attending school and going to college," she writes. "I didn't ask my mother at three years old to take me into an unknown country. I didn't ask to be an undocumented person. I didn't ask her to leave her family behind, so she could give me a better life. I didn't ask her to break the law."

The recent high school graduate currently residing in Wyoming goes on to dispel a series of myths about DACA recipients, including that they don't pay taxes, they don't contribute to society, and they are taking jobs from Americans. 

She then explains what DACA recipients do give up — the possibility of traveling to another country, the ability to obtain a driver's license, etc. — and details how hard she's worked just so she can go to college in this country. "Even with the scholarships, it wounded up to be almost $3k out of mine and my parents' pockets because I am not eligible for federal aid of any sort including the Pell Grant, student loans, and other college scholarships because I'm not a citizen," she writes, saying also that she was denied a tutoring job at her university solely because she is not an American citizen.

Despite all of the extra difficulties Gracia-Ortiz says she's studying nursing at Central Wyoming College even though she knows her DACA status may soon be revoked, rendering her studies worthless.

"When I walked across my high school stage and received my diploma, I felt one step closer to the American Dream. One that I was told of since I started public school. One that was crushed in elementary school when I realized I couldn't do many things my friends could, such as get a driver's license, or travel the world, because I was undocumented," she writes. "One that was revived when I was 14 years old when DACA was created, and one that could potentially be crushed again my freshman year of college." 

"I ask you to stand with me, with DACA, and with the other 800,000 people whose dreams could be shot down in the next few months," she concludes. "I am not an American on paper, but I am at heart."

Gracia-Ortiz told A Plus that she shared her story online in the hopes that she could help shift public opinion.

"I decided to share my story in the midst of the DACA uproar for the people who have negative views on DACA," she wrote in an email to A Plus. "I've lived in one of the most conservative/republican states for the majority of my life, and I have heard a lot of strong opinions regarding immigration. I've had many friends who have voiced their strong opinions about immigration to me, not knowing that, by their definition, I am one of those 'immigrants' or 'illegals.'"

Since it was posted on September 5, Gracia-Ortiz's moving missive to the only country she has ever known has garnered over 3,300 likes, upwards if 2,100 shares, and hundreds of comments. "I am glad you are here, and you are an excellent example of civic virtue. I have already written my Senators in Colorado," wrote one woman.

Another commenter added, "Jicell...what an extraordinary perspective you have. Thank you for sharing your heart. It is eye-opening to hear real people's views and thoughts about this," but there were plenty who were critical of Gracia-Ortiz as well.

But if Gracia-Ortiz could encourage one takeaway from her post, it's that "Dreamers" are all doing the best they can.

"I want people to see that we are only doing what we know to do," she told A Plus. "We have been taught at a young age to pursue the 'American Dream,' and that is the only thing we are fighting for. We are all good people. We work, we pay our taxes, and we go to school. We don't want to be seen as criminals like many people have put it. We are trying to better our lives and better the lives of the people around us."

One common refrain came from those who encouraged her to obtain citizenship the "legal" way. For the record, Gracia-Ortiz says she has applied for citizenship but noted in a subsequent post that the process takes "decades."

"I have been so blessed with all of the positive changes comments, and I have been trying to scroll past negative ones. I really hope this brought the word out though," she said. "Thank you for everyone supporting DACA!"

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