Juan Carlos is seen in a photo at an immigration reform rally in front of the White House, July 28, 2014.
Photo courtesy of United We Dream

What it’s like to be 21, undocumented, and fighting for a dream


My dream is to design and build my parents a house one day. That’s always been my promise to them.

My name is Juan Carlos; I’m an undocumented, queer, 21-year-old aspiring architect. And today I am one step closer to fulfilling that promise to my parents.

I will soon be protected from deportation and I’ll receive a work permit because of the executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama last November. I’ll finally be able to earn a decent living and go to college.

“These Republican attacks have one goal: to keep people like me living in fear and at risk of deportation.”
Juan Carlos Ramos
But Republicans are getting in the way of making my dreams come true.

Rather than embrace the big steps forward our country is taking on immigration, they’re fighting for their mass-deportation agenda. Casting vote after vote to undermine Obama’s executive actions and delaying applications for the deportation relief program through a lawsuit that’s sure to fail.

Make no mistake – these Republican attacks have one goal: to keep people like me living in fear and at risk of deportation. 

I came to the United States with my older brother when I was 15 to escape the escalating violence in El Salvador which threatened our safety. My parents decided it was time for us to join them in Charlotte, N.C., where they had moved to better provide for me and my brother.

Since then, I have come to consider this country my home. Though there have been high points, life here has been a struggle. I was able to graduate high school but was unable to afford any of the five colleges that accepted me. I’ve also had to present myself in immigration court twice, and now live with a final order of deportation hanging over my head.

Deferred action is my ticket forward. We’ve seen the positive effects that it’s had on the more than 650,000 young people who have signed up for the program and have seen the improvement in their lives. Many are able to obtain driver’s licenses, work permits, and their parents now have peace of mind that their children will come home every night.

RELATED: Why Obama ultimately will win on immigration

In 2012, DREAMers across the country celebrated winning Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals after two years of pressuring Obama to deliver. While the victory covered many DREAMers, I was left out and didn’t qualify because of the date I moved to the U.S. But that didn’t stop me or our community.

We fought for more, and after two more years of pressuring the president, we would win again.

I remember watching Obama’s announcement of an expansion of Deferred Action to cover millions of parents and additional DREAMers, surrounded by my closest friends in this movement. As the requirements for the DACA expansion program became clear, I knew this time I would qualify.

It was a bittersweet moment – I cried both out of joy and sorrow because I qualified for the new program but my parents and brother did not.

“It was a bittersweet moment – I cried both out of joy and sorrow because I qualified for the new program but my parents and brother did not.”
Juan Carlos Ramos
But just as DREAMers continued fighting for me after the win of DACA in 2012, our movement has vowed to continue fighting until the day that my parents, my brother and our entire community are able to live free from fear.

Executive action on immigration is a step forward for our community and our country. Immigrant youth have held countless public education events to prepare people who will benefit so that they are ready to sign up as soon as the application is available.

But while our community works to make these victories real and fight for more, the GOP has stepped up their attacks, casting vote after vote in Congress to deport people like me and my family and through a lawsuit filed by Republican politicians across the country and heard by a judge with a history of comments against our community.

RELATED: 5 things to know about the fight over Obama’s immigration actions

As we expected, the judge ruled to put applications for the new program on hold temporarily. We know that their lawsuit is going to fail and that this is all politics. We’ve already won and these Republican games are desperate.

Immigrant youth have asked the president himself to go out and speak to our community, to instill confidence that both DACA and DAPA, programs that we’ve fought for tooth and nail, will be successful. We hope that this town hall is just the first stop of many for the administration. They must reach out to all immigrant communities, and encourage people not to be afraid to sign up.

I know I’m ready.

Juan Carlos Ramos is a 21-year-old queer, undocumented immigrant from Charlotte, N.C. and member of United We Dream, where he advocates for the rights of immigrants regardless of legal status, sexual orientation or gender identity.