DACA brought hope to thousands of young immigrants and their families. Cibele Bustos’ experiences reveal its benefits, and limitations, and underscore the continuing need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Marina López: When did you realize you weren't here legally?
Cibele Bustos: It think it was in high school when I wanted to start working. Because everyone had started working in Mexican restaurants for instance and couldn't get other work. My brother had to work in construction because he couldn't get another job because of his legal status.
ML: At home, had your mom and dad ever openly discussed this issue with you?
CB: No, I don’t remember, but they'd always say that someday our legal status would change. We'd always had a tax I.D. I didn't know what it was until after I graduated from school when I tried to apply for work with the tax I.D. I didn’t know until then, but that’s how it was.
ML: But it wasn't something that was discussed in your family.
CB: Not so much as far as I remember.
ML: At least.
CB: Or maybe I just didn't pay attention as it didn't affect me while I was in high school.
ML: Uh-huh, and in high school you realized it.
ML: In high school you realized it. And what happened then, when you realized you weren't here legally?
CB: I don’t know, like it was a little weird. It was like I was with my classmates, but not really. I didn’t feel like I belonged with them here or that I was just another average person.
ML: How did you process that issue? How long did you think about it, and how did you feel?
CB: At first I didn’t give it much thought, but then when I had to take the tests they gave us, I went to the military [Military Magnet School]. They'd always ask for my social security number and I don't know, I didn't write anything down because I obviously didn't have one. Then it was like, "Oh, you need a social for everything. If you don't have a social, you aren't, you aren't a person." Well, that's how I saw it.
ML: In other words, your self-worth was connected to your legal status, essentially.
CB: Yeah, like I was hiding.
ML: Did you have to hide?
CB: No, it's not that I had to hide, but sort of because if you had no social you'd supposedly be in trouble. I don’t know, if you were caught.
ML: Well, hiding is a way of protecting yourself, right? So how was it? At that time you wanted to start working. You wanted to start thinking about other things and you ran into this limitation. You didn’t have your social security. How did you find information at the time? Was there anyone who told you what was happening in the country? Did you find out anything about politics from other students who were in the same situation? There are millions of people in your situation, right?
ML: What did you find out?
CB: Well, I didn't really watch the news because I don’t know, I didn’t like it. It was all bad news, but I'd listen to what my mom told her friends and my classmates who were in a similar situation. That's how I found out, through the news. Through the news and things I picked up here and there, but I didn't pay much attention.
ML: But you'd generally find out through your social networks.
CB: Uh-huh, yeah.
CB: Basically, my mom told me the information I needed and how everything would play out. Then when I saw my friends, I explained it to them and they also told me, "Oh yeah, my mom told me we were going to go together." Basically, there was one day to register, the lawyer my mom spoke with said. Oh, ok. I do remember now. They were in, I don't know, a gym, something like that, and there were staff. And we were there with proof of how long we had lived here and how. That is, evidence that we lived here.
ML: Did it cost a lot to gather the documentation they needed?
CB: For me, not really, but for my older brother, yes, because he had nothing from high school or middle school. We had to go to every school we had attended to look for documents proving that we had gone to that school. And supposedly - what's that document called? I don’t remember, but we went to the elementary school, and from there we were sent to the school we attended after that, then the last one, that is, they sent us all to the last school we'd attended to pick up all the records, but our high school didn't have our elementary school grades or the middle school ones.
ML: They didn't have the records?
CB: Uh-huh, that was the bigger issue, that we couldn't find the records. But for me, they kept everything, academic awards and the like. They did have those. They had Mariano's records, but not Matías's. Matías had to take photos, and people had to write a letter saying that he was here.
ML: And so you went and filled out the application and sent everything, and how long did it take to get your documents?
CB: Supposedly, we were hoping to receive them within six months, but got them in a month, a month and a half. It was quick.
ML: And in what ways did your life change, Cibele?
CB: I don’t feel that it changed me, but I can work with a social now, it feels more - well, yes, it feels safer driving now that I've got a license. You feel like you're part of the United States, I don’t know.
ML: You feel part of the United States.
ML: As though you've got a right to be here.
CB: Yes, yes, as though you've got more rights, not always hiding.
ML: So what are the documents that you got through the DACA?
CB: My license. I've got my work authorization. I have a social. I can go to school, but they do make it harder to go to school. It's not like, "Oh, I can go to school" because I went to Trident to apply, and I have to pay double, and I have to pay the tuition out of pocket.
ML: You've got to pay double because they don’t consider you to be an in-state student.
CB: Uh-huh, you got to pay out-of-state and out of pocket.
ML: So this is a very difficult time for you.
CB: Yes, because I also have to help my mom to pay the bills and all that, and I also have to save money. I have to save for a car because I'm using my brother's now, and it's always annoying to ask. Even though he lends it to me, I just want my own car so that I don't have to ask all the time.
ML: So work now has at least given you the chance to save up, to know that this is your car. Do you think that at some point you'll want to study?
CB: Yes, I always wanted to study but then later when I found out—that is, that I had the Dream Act and I was told that I have to pay out of pocket, out of tuition, I was like, "Well, it's all lies"—not a lie, but they made it harder because I can't even get a scholarship.
ML: That disappointed you a lot.