Every day, I get up and go to work at the Senate cafeteria—serving food to Senators who refuse to stand up for me and my family. It’s hard to look them in the eye and return their smiles when I know they hold the key to my future, yet they are unwilling to act.
My name is Ana Gomez, and I’m one of the nearly 700,000 Dreamers who will be targeted for deportation when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program ends in less than a month. President Trump terminated the program, passing the buck to Congress. They have failed to act on this crisis, and he has failed to join with them when they have tried.
A recent CBS News poll shows 70 percent of Americans support Dreamers. Despite the fact that most of the nation stands with us, Congress and President Trump won’t do what’s right and follow the will of the people. For me, my husband and our three American-born children, this could mean the end of our family as we know it—and our dreams for the future.
I came to the United States from El Salvador when I was 14 years old, to escape brutal violence that took my father’s life a few years after I fled. It took me 25 days to travel 2,000 miles across Guatemala and Mexico. I was stuffed in the luggage hold of a moving bus and hidden in an empty railroad car. I crossed raging rivers and slept on the cold ground in the desert. I was robbed in Mexico and the “coyotes” who were my guides demanded more money from my family in the U.S.
After finally crossing into Texas, I made it to Washington, D.C. in 2005, where I was reunited with my mother and older sister.
From the moment I arrived, I lived and worked in the shadows. I found jobs at fast food restaurants and car washes where my employers forced me to work long hours without pay. I never spoke up or asked for help because I didn’t have a choice. I could either speak up or be deported.
When President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program(DACA), my life completely changed. I completed my GED and I got a job working at the United States Senate cafeteria. With my DACA papers in hand, I felt like I could finally speak out about mistreatment, because my rights were now protected by the law. At the Senate, I joined with the workers’ rights group Good Jobs Nation to fight wage theft by the federal contractor that employed me. Together with fellow workers, I went on strike and filed a wage theft complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor to fight injustice on the job. We eventually recovered more than $1 million in stolen wages and damages.
All of this was made possible by DACA. Now, I’m afraid that everything I’ve worked so hard to earn will disappear. My future—and the future of the 700,000 other people who were given the chance to live successful lives because of this program—now lies in the hands of the Senators I serve every day.
I don’t want to go back into the shadows. I want to keep fighting for working families across America. I want to raise my three beautiful girls and support my husband, who is sick with kidney failure. Like most DREAMers, I consider the United States my home. I want nothing more than the right to stay here and continue to contribute to my community and our economy.
I can’t sleep at night because I worry that the Senators I serve will vote to deport me. I am scared about what will happen to my family if I am gone. And I worry about what will happen to immigrant workers like me who will once again be afraid to raise their voices.
I need Congress to act now—for myself, my family, my fellow workers and my fellow Dreamers. We all deserve to live outside of the shadows.