Stephany Castro is a Dreamer.

She dreams of being the first person in her immediate family to graduate from high school. She dreams that her hard work will land her at a good college where she wants to study medicine. She has a 4.4 GPA at East Mecklenburg High School and extracurriculars that include Student Congress and ROTC.

But after President Donald Trump’s administration announced last week that it planned to end the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after a “wind down period,” Castro and nearly 800,000 “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States before the age of 16 and had been in this country since 2007, now live in fear that they will be deported to countries that many don’t even remember.

Castro found out she was undocumented in second grade.

“I’ve been in America for 16 years, since I was 1 year old,” she said. “I’ve never even gone back to Mexico.”

Once she obtained her DACA status she felt that a “giant weight had been lifted” off of her. She was thrilled that she would be able to land a part-time job, get a driver’s license and car insurance, and apply to college — though she isn’t eligible for most scholarships and since she’s not a U.S. citizen she can’t apply for federal student aid.

“As soon as I got my DACA papers, I got a part-time job,” Castro said. “I am saving for college. It is going to cost me a lot of money, but I don’t care. I know that it will be worth it.”

Castro is poised, with a laser focus that defies her age. She’s a scrapper, and she is brave as hell. Yet, the anguish that she felt from the Trump’s DACA announcement was palpable.

“It felt like my whole world, everything that I have worked for, came crashing down,” she said through tears. She wants everyone to know that despite what they may hear on the news, most undocumented immigrants — especially Dreamers — are not “criminals, rapists and thugs.”

To qualify for DACA a person must not be convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors. They cannot pose a threat to public safety or national security.

Castro has three younger siblings who are all U.S. citizens. It is important for her to show her siblings that with hard work and determination anyone can accomplish their dreams. It is also important for her to show her mother that all the risks and sacrifices that she made to provide a better life for her family have not been in vain.

The American Dream

I moved to Charlotte 16 years ago to escape my chaotic nightmare of a past.

My parents were drug addicts. They hustled doctors for pills. They were unemployed more than they weren’t and they took advantage of any and every system they could.

Although my parents may not have made it particularly easy on me to achieve my dreams, I have never been held accountable for their sins in a concrete way. I wasn’t denied student loans because of their criminal background. I was never passed over for a job because my dad wasn’t around when I was born and his name isn’t on my birth certificate. I don’t live in fear that the Drug Enforcement Agency is going to show up at my door and place me under arrest for crimes that my mom and dad committed when I was a child.

I am college educated. I have a house, an SUV and retirement accounts. I am married to the love of my life and we’re raising a goofy, tender-hearted, rock and roll loving kid who makes me warmer than a Southern summer day. I’m living the American dream, y’all.

But if your parents brought you to America without proper documentation you could be held accountable for decisions that your parents made for you.

Andres Lopez, a Charlotte-based immigration attorney, said Dreamers took a big chance by exposing themselves as undocumented. They “came out of the shadows” because DACA would allow them to become productive members of society.

“No one thought that Dreamers would ever face being deported,” Lopez said. “Then again there was no way to predict the Trump administration.”

Immigration is controversial. There isn’t an easy fix. I’m certainly not proposing that I have the answers.

However, when it comes to Dreamers, we must remember that although they are here without proper documentation, it is through no fault of their own. We must remember that we are their keepers. They are our friends, our neighbors.

Dreamers are our future.

“Dreamers are future political leaders, doctors and educators,” Castro said. “America is a growing melting pot and we are part of that. We are what makes America great.”

Photos: Courtesy of Stephany Castro

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    • How do you know though? Are you the govement? Exactly there is always a chance. A honor roll student who could become a future doctor saving lives. Do you think she would get the same opportunities if she grew up where her Parents are from? Think before you speak.

  1. So after 16 years, why did they do nothing to be here legally. That’s what this is all about….if you want to be an American, then become one. My ancestors did…..

  2. Aren’t there still student visas, temporary work permits and other options available? While I understand how unsettling this has been even President Obama recognized it was temporary and courts, while not ruling directly on DACA, have indicated it is an unconstitutional reach of executive power. Again, for people in college, applying to college or have other special situations there are a number of visa and permits available to allow them to stay in the US lawfully and some could even include a path to citizenship.

  3. Stephany Castro isn’t going to be punished for her parents’ actions. She just isn’t going to get what she never was entitled to. It’s very simple.

    • Yes she will by playing by the rules. She never mentioned anything about being entitled. She works a part time job while saving for college due to her ineligibility for scholarships or other college handouts. By doing it the hard way and playing by the rules she will benefit greatly.

  4. Getting a citizenship is not like walking into a store. You grab one, pay, and then done. She wasn’t exactly set up very well for success. What she has achieved is impressive (considering her parents). My parents came here and became citizens as well. I’m 100% with you on becoming a citizen. I know it’s not a simple process. We have to remember every situation is different and sometimes it’s not as easy as it sounds. I don’t think she will be deported (I hope not) but I couldn’t imagine living with that fear or uncertainty every day.

  5. This is a typical tug at the heart story by the CO. Instead of all the fuss about a rule that is NOT a law, concerned citizens need to contact their politician and petition them to actually create a law the correct way. What was instituted by Obama was not through congress. Our laws in America need to be obeyed by all, no matter if you agree with them or not. If you think they are outdated, contact your representative in Washington. We are a nation of laws, if that breaks down we’ll have chaos.

  6. Dear Frustrated and A,

    A – If you consider it a shame that Ms. Castro’s parents put her in a position to succeed and become upwardly mobile in life, then I agree. If you think it is a shame that her parents fled with their infant from an unstable environment to offer her what any parent wants for their child- a safe home and a chance to be whatever she/he wants to be, then I have to disagree.

    Frustrated – A question: Do you know how an undocumented immigrant can legally become US permanent resident? I must assume no as your comment has much less relevance when viewed from an educated standpoint. There are a few ways for an undocumented or “illegal” immigrant become a permanent resident, which are as follows:

    1. Marriage to a US citizen

    2. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

    3. Asylum status

    4. Receive a U Visa as a victim of a crime. These crimes must be well documented and include murder, female genital mutilation, rape, and torture.

    Please note that I am not an immigration attorney and do not know the letters of immigration law. I simply want to make the point that “becoming an American” today might a bit more difficult than you imagine.

    Bottom line, ending DACA is a heartless and hurtful act. Ninety-one percent of DACA recipients are employed and nearly half of them are still taking classes. Additionally, to qualify for DACA they cannot have been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. It seems that many these “dreamers” are doing just that- dreaming of a better life here in America and actively working to make that happen.

    Successful, driven honor students have always had to deal with bullies- I’m sure Stephany has heard these comments before. My only request for next time is that you arm yourself with some basic knowledge before making comments on the public record. Oh, and that maybe you stop picking on 17 year olds.

    • Why is ending an unconstitutional Presidential policy? Trumo has not repealed Daca, he just told Congress to make it law and therefore legal!
      Trumo is just trying to have America follow the laws that make us what we are! All the libs with TDS want to do is scream racist, bigot, homophobe,nazi, white supremacist , ad nauseum!
      Follow the LAW and you will be fine! After 16 years, a 4.4 gpa student should have been able to figure that out!

    • Her parents are to blame.. not me or anyone else. you can also blame the last president for giving all these folks false hope…so yes it is ashame as I think she would be a fine citizen…however her parents put her in this position and she refused to try and become a citizen. in case you didn’t know we are a nation of laws….work with your congressperson to change the law. until then follow the law like we all do…

  7. Obama, a Constitutional lawyer, stated 22 times prior to his DACA debacle that he was not authorized to do what he did, but he did anyway.

    We are a nation of laws. Congress and only Congress can make immigration law.

    It’s sad this is happening through no fault of her own, but the law is the law and if you want to be part of this country, apply to become an American citizen as nearly 1 million do each year.

  8. I’m in no way a supporter of Trump. Didn’t vote for him, don’t like him.

    But what he did will force the Senate to pass a bill and address this in the correct manner. I know it’s ugly and his core base are lunatics; but this needs to be a law, not an Executive order by the President.

  9. Well, hopefully all the ESL she learned here on the taxpayer dime will come in handy to teach others when she goes home.

    Bye. Sorry you have to wait in line like everyone else. Cute pics, love the camo, definitely made me look twice but turns out she’s just a ROTC Nazi.

    Click. Bait.

  10. As long as there has been a USA there have been xenophobes who believe one group of refugees or another will destroy our society. The Chinese, the Irish, the Hungarians, Japanese, Cubans, Haitians, Vietnamese, etc.
    Diversity is not a risk, it is a strength.

    When you vote for a person who is openly bigoted, an introspective might be in order.

  11. I just want to share my love and support for Stephany. Stephany you are an amazing young lady, so brave, and so strong. I am so proud to call you a fellow American. You represent the best of America!

  12. That victim mentality is helping nothing. Get out there, and make things happen (legally). A beautiful, intelligent female who has been through so much already (which would make her a more sympathetic person) has so much to offer.