“I live my life in hiding. My survival depends on it.” – Dexter

My Facebook feed tells me that the film Documented has been honored at the Cinemalaya Film Festival in Manila. I watched it on CNN the Sunday night we arrived at our Outer Banks vacation last month. I watched it alone while the rest of the family was either playing Monopoly with one dice or grocery shopping for the week. I would normally opt to go grocery shopping since I am selective about my diet but stayed in knowing the film was premiering.  It was 2 hours long and I found myself mesmerized by the images of Manila streets. It looked like a modern day Wild West with its dusty streets and a lone rickshaw pulled by a motor bike.


I identify with Mr. Vargas for many reasons. We are both Filipino, similar in age. We are both writers. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist that has covered Presidential elections. I am newly minted on the Balloon-Juice front page having graduated from my audience of 10 with the other other (a little bit neglected) blog. He is “out” about the most intimate details of his life and at some point I might also consider disclosing details about myself. He is friends with the likes of Mark Zuckerburg and I am a stalker of professors. All and all pretty close right? It remains to be seen if he has a luxurious, tumbleweed generator of a cat but I think not with his hectic travel schedule. This may be where I have Mr. Vargas beat.  My immigrant cat says, “eat your heart out Jose!”

So anyway, there are a couple parts of his story on my mind. On the forefront is him being a child when he made the journey here. My mom and I arrived here in April of 1987, I was 7 going on 8. With us for the trip was a girl named Joy. I did not know her to be a member of my family nor have I seen or heard from her in the 3 decades of my residence here in America. Looking back on it, although I was not an unaccompanied minor, my mother and I accompanied a minor.  I guess as a mom, I would NEVER send my child anywhere without me, unless of course I thought elsewhere without me might be better. In addition to the physical distance, I would not risk destroying the relationship with my child not being there during his most formative years. This is the reality of many of the children that come to the U.S. and many people do take that risk.  For some of us the journey was via Japan Airlines. For someone else I know, it was through the unforgiving southwest dessert via a coyote. At some point I do want to talk about the unaccompanied minors flooding our borders but I need to do some serious homework. For now, I’d like to keep the topic on the 11 million undocumented immigrants already within our borders.

On Jun 15, 2012, President Obama made an announcement that his Administration would no longer deport immigrants that were brought to the U.S. as children. This was the inception of what is known among us as “DACA” or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  USCIS or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applicants for DACA in August and approvals were granted in September of that year. Keep in mind that within the same family, some are eligible for this while others are not. The criteria to be DACA eligible are as follows:

  • Under age 31 on June 15, 2012
  • U.S. resident since Jun 15, 2007 up until the President’s announcement
  • Physically present in the US on Jun 15, 2012 and have had no lawful status or any lawful status you had expired on June 15, 2012
  • Applicants should be in school, have graduated from school or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or the U.S. armed forces
  • No criminal record or be deemed as a threat to national security or public safety.

USCIS.gov provides explicit instructions on filling out the I-821 (Application for Temporary Protected Status) DACA form as well as the I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) form. The filing fee for I-821 is 50 dollars. The biometrics fee, where you schlep yourself to a USCIS building or non-descript processing building, after driving around it a few times because you didn’t recognize it, to get your fingerprints taken is 85 dollars. The fee for the I-765 form is 380 dollars.  Please trust me when I say that this is “cheap” compared to the other USCIS forms and having to fill out only 2 forms is not so bad.

Seems like a paradox to provide documentation to a government for a life that by its very nature isn’t recognized as ever having existed.  Yet the DREAMers march on because it is one obstacle of many. Those that have been granted DACA approvals obtained social security numbers and have gone on with their lives with their semi protected status.  DACA recipients must renew in two years. Some have been able to obtain driver’s licenses based on the state in which they live. Unfortunately other have not. For example, you can be a DACA recipient, be legally allowed to work in the state of Arizona and not eligible for a driver’s license.

Like Mr. Vargas, I would not have qualified for DACA because of my age. It was a heartbreaking point in the film when the announcement was made by the President but someone like Mr. Vargas didn’t “fit” the criteria.

This past Friday the House voted to end DACA as well as approve $694 million towards the border crisis. What the two have to do with each other, I am not sure. I know the $694 million is not what the President requested. I am also not sure what ending DACA would do since the people it has already impacted are not going to self-deport. I await the President’s next move.

19 replies
  1. 1
    jackie says:

    What happened to John’s post? Photo in the car with dog.

  2. 2
    Anne Laurie says:

    @jackie: It’ll be back later. John didn’t want to bump down (“bigfoot”) LRR’s post from the top of the page/RSS feed before people got a chance to read it.

  3. 3
    Violet says:

    This past Friday the House voted to end DACA as well as approve $694 million towards the border crisis. What the two have to do with each other, I am not sure.

    What they have to do with each other is that they are both things that make Republicans happy. Keep the browns down. That kind of thing.

  4. 4
    Alison says:

    I watched Documented and was just so filled with admiration and respect for Vargas and everyone in it, and so utterly annoyed and enraged with our political system that is filled with heartless assholes and, at best, total indifference.

    And of course, tweeting about the film while watching it brought a whole bunch of xenophobic racist shitheads into my mentions. Like…do you seriously think you’re going to make me do a 180 and start hating immigrants for being brown just because you scream BUT JOBS AND SHIT at me? No.

  5. 5
    Cervantes says:

    My mom and I arrived here in April of 1987.

    Safe to assume you have not been back to visit, yes?

  6. 6
    satby says:

    I’m looking forward to your take on the children coming over the border when you’re ready,LRR. My take is that a lot of “Christians” are again failing to follow the teachings of
    Christ though this is a perfect opportunity for them to step up.

  7. 7
    PurpleGirl says:

    My mother was born a few weeks after my grandmother and the older children arrived here from Sicily. My grandfather was already in NYC and he sent for them. (They had three more children after my mother.) There was a cousin who came with them, although she was not named in the paperwork, you could say she was smuggled in with the other children — what’s one more kid, right. So, for decades her family and my mother’s family were not the closest of families. There was always a pale over them and a fear that the government would find out about the cousin who was smuggled in. I never heard the whole story of it. Oh, with all happened like circa 1910.

  8. 8
    Mike E says:

    My mom arrived in NYC with my sister in tow and my other sister in utero (she would subsequently be born at Roosevelt Hospital… anchor baby!), and what a long strange trip it was: Yugoslavia, Italy, Chile, Miami(!) then finally catching up with my grandparents in the city (who avoided the last half of that circuitous crap). My other other sister, brother and I rounded out the invasion.

  9. 9
    Origuy says:

    The Irish-American band Cherish the Ladies do a song about an Irish undocumented immigrant.
    The Back Door

    I didn’t see the Statue of Liberty,
    Never heard her welcoming words.
    I came through the back door silently,
    Unwanted, unseen, and unheard.

  10. 10
    Paul in KY says:

    Did you ever ask your parents about Joy & what became of her?

  11. 11
    J R in WV says:


    Actually, a church attending (married to the pastor too!) friend was visiting us the past 5 or 6 days, old friend who helped me do well academically in my 3rd totally successful college career, and he tells us that many different mainstream churches are coming together to work to assist the newly arrived immigrants. Southern Baptists, Presbys, Catholics, Episcopals etc all working in the same direction.

    Most unusual really, and I hope it is an indication that many of these religions are turning back to the original teachings of their founder. A change from mostly listening to ranting haters currently in charge of large groups of churches, anyway. Don’t know about pentacostal mega churches, not really connected to mainstream organizations.

  12. 12
    Josie says:

    I guess as a mom, I would NEVER send my child anywhere without me, unless of course I thought elsewhere without me might be better.

    This is what I keep thinking about. How horrible must the situation be that a mother would send her child into uncertainty and danger in order to escape it. I cannot imagine how hard that would be. We should be doing all we can to better the situation in these countries near us instead of spending so much on other parts of the world.

  13. 13
    Little Red Rising says:

    I didn’t remember Joy until I started writing about this. Its weird how things come back in the writing….

  14. 14
    Little Red Rising says:

    correct. I would like to go back. I am aiming for early next year.

  15. 15
    Paul in KY says:

    @Little Red Rising: Are your parents still alive, so you can now ask them about her?

  16. 16

    The USCIS fees really went up during Bush’s admin. They need to hire more people as they seem to be seriously understaffed. FWIW it is no picnic dealing with the USCIS even if you have always be in status.

  17. 17
    Keith G says:

    LRR, thank you for this post.

  18. 18
    Little Red Rising says:

    :) It was rhetorical.

  19. 19
    Little Red Rising says:

    You are very welcome!

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