Maria Torres has lived in Atlanta for five years and will graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2015. She came here with her aunt and uncle and was technically considered to be in the United States illegally until President Obama extended the opportunity for Maria and millions of other young people to remain in the country under the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)” provision of a 2013 executive order. Her parents, however, were, until recently, still in the shadows, and could have been deported back to Mexico at any moment. The President’s recent additional executive order means Maria and her parents can now breathe easily, not living in fear of being returned to one of the most violent regions of the Mexican state.
Recently, I sat down with Maria and her parents in the hope of getting a view of the immigration debate from a young family is directly impacted by the President’s humanitarian action. I asked her how she felt when she watched the President announce his decision which will allow the parents of children covered under the 2013 provision to also be granted residency in the United States. “I was crying when I watched,” Maria told me. “I was watching with my entire family and I burst into tears when I realized my parents would be able to stay and not have to live in fear every single day.” And what does she think of Republican politicians who say the President should be impeached for his actions? “I just wish they could live one day in my shoes. I wish they had to live one day thinking one of their family might be sent away and never be allowed to come back. How can anyone hate seeing joy for another person?”
Maria’s parents, as you might expect, are incredibly proud of their daughter. Her father, Jorge, told me he sees in his daughter the fulfillment of the American dream: “She has accomplished so much simply because she has been given the chance,” Jorge, who works as a landscaper, said. “Where we come from (in Mexico), she would have had no chance to achieve the things she has here in America. I just thank God she has been able to make something of herself. This is the best country in the world, and we are blessed to be here.”
Jorge’s feelings were echoed by Maria’s mother, Amara, who was recently hired as a receptionist for a doctor’s office in Midtown Atlanta. “I am so thankful Maria came here and has done so well. Now we can all live here and be a real family. This is an answer to prayer.”