My name is Jose Caceres, and I was born, and raised for a big part of my childhood, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Due to many economic issues there, my father migrated to the United States in 2002. The original plan was for the rest of my family to stay in Guatemala while my father worked and saved money, but in 2004 my mom came to the United States, as well.
My parents saw that we could have a better life in the United States, so the following year they brought my sister and me to Arlington, Va., where they were living. I was 12 at the time, and I'm proud to have called Virginia my home for the past 10 years.
I started school in the United States and was placed in the 7th grade. The first few months were really difficult as I didn't speak a single word of English, but I persevered thanks to my father. He always told me, "work hard, learn English, study diligently and everything will be alright in the end."
I knew I was undocumented but I never thought that it was going to be an obstacle in my life until I was a junior in high school. During that time I discovered my love for film and scriptwriting and wanted to start looking at scholarships and colleges that offered such programs. However, I hit a roadblock as most of the scholarships had citizenship and legal permanent residency requirements. Some of my teachers tried to help me, but I refused to tell them that I was undocumented. I was too afraid and ashamed.
During my senior year, I decided that it was best to start at a community college, but I was again disappointed when I found out that I had to pay out-of-state tuition rates, which were more than I could afford. Around the same time, the federal DREAM act of 2010 failed to pass and the little bit of hope I had vanished. Fortunately, I was able to take one class at Northern Virginia Community College with my parents' financial help.
On June 15, 2012, a big change happened when President Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). I had to save money for the application fees, so I didn't apply until December. My application was approved in late May 2013, and it has made a big impact on my life ever since. I was able to do an internship with TeleSUR—a Latin American television network—and I continue to take classes at the community college. DACA also allowed me to get a better-paying job, and in turn, I could help my parents out financially, as they had sacrificed and done for me for so many years.
Around the same time, I met a group of Dreamers from Virginia who were advocating for immigrant rights and policies that supported the immigrant community, and I have been involved with them ever since. They gave me hope when I desperately needed it. Though DACA also gave me hope and opened up the doors to several opportunities, it is still not enough. I have many friends that were ineligible for it due to the age they entered the country, and that's why I continue to advocate for more inclusive administrative relief. I continue to advocate for my parents and other Dreamers who are going through the same situation that I did before DACA opened up opportunities for me.