My name is Gabrielle Jackson, and I am originally from Trinidad, an island in the Caribbean. I first came to the United States with my mother and younger sister in the early 1990s at the age of 9. We migrated to be with our family and to get a fresh start on life, away from hardship and trauma.
I, as many of us are, am part of a mixed-status family—some of us U.S. citizens, some of us legal permanent residents, and others are undocumented. Being undocumented came with years of confusion, anxiety and fear. I was one of the many that waited with bated breath when the DREAM Act was considered in Congress in 2010 and watched it fail to pass, which left us with a deepened sense of disappointment and despondency. When the executive order for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was announced in June 2012, I was in my late 20s, and it gave me renewed hope for the future.
In November 2012, while I was awaiting the decision on my DACA application, I came out of the shadows. As a black undocumented immigrant, it is hard to feel included and considered in the debate on immigration issues, despite the diversity of the 11 million. Because of this, I knew that I needed to let go and free myself from the fear, not just for myself, but for others to know they were not alone. DACA gave me the courage to do that, and this was just the start of what DACA meant for me.
Being granted DACA status meant a new start. I finally was able to enter my career field as a mental health social worker and therapist, working with clients who are affected by trauma, abuse, neglect and other vulnerabilities. It allowed me to give back even more to my community, including serving as a disaster mental health volunteer, and being a volunteer to lend a listening ear to men and women at local immigration detention centers who are in deportation proceedings. It meant not fearing deportation and separation from my loved ones, and being able to be there to take care of my family. While the need for reform of the immigration system is still very necessary, DACA presents an important first step in the right direction.