Priscila Narcio remembers her life in Sinaloa, Mexico, and the fear she felt in hearing footsteps on her roof at night. Her parents, concerned with their children’s safety, wanted them to have a better life.
When Priscila’s father immigrated undocumented to the United States 18 years ago, he left alone, with only $200 to make the more than 2,000-mile trip to Portland, Oregon. Priscila missed her father deeply, and it wasn’t until she was 5 that the family followed him to Portland, entering the country undocumented.
Portland is a long way from Sinaloa, and according to Priscila the cultures are worlds apart. Adjusting to their new home wasn’t easy.
Harder still for Priscila was entering the school system. Kindergarten immersed her into English for the first time, and it wasn’t until second grade that she could fully understand and speak the language. By the time she was in middle school, the family had moved to Salem. High school was awkward for Priscila, who didn’t feel like she fit in or connected with teachers.
Feeling lost and not knowing what to do after graduation, Priscila got a glimmer of hope when the Obama administration passed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The policy went into effect on Aug. 15, 2012, just before the beginning of her senior year.
Her mother saw the impact that DACA could have on Priscila’s life and feverishly worked to get her approved – a process that took almost a year and included hiring an immigration lawyer that cost more than $1,000. When Priscila’s DACA status was approved, she was granted temporary resident status in the United States for the first time in her life. Previously, she was only able to work-under-the table jobs that mostly consisted of agricultural work.
Working documented also led her to believe that she could accomplish more with her life. And when she graduated from South Salem High School in 2013, she felt a college degree was obtainable. DACA allowed her to obtain a social security card, which she needed to enter college.
“There needs to be a solution to this because we are people just like everyone else.”
Chasing her American dream
Following graduation, Priscila quickly enrolled at Chemeketa Community College (CCC) in Salem. Enrolling wasn’t a problem, but when she went to CCC’s financial aid office she faced yet another obstacle. Even though she graduated from a U.S. high school and had spent the majority of her life in the country, only citizens are eligible for federal financial aid.
“I felt like my wings wanted to grow but were being held down.”
Despite the setback, Priscila didn’t give up. Struggling to pay for school, even working two jobs, she learned about a peer assistant position that paid for up to 18 credits of tuition each term. She did everything she could to get a similar position and eventually got the job.
“Being in school gave me the sense that I could do something more,” Priscila said. “It gave me so much value.”
Best of all, she was able to pay it forward, using the trait that held her back when she first entered school – her Spanish language. Certified as bilingual, Priscila helped elementary students in Salem with their reading and writing skills, something she needed as a child.
She also co-founded a DACA club at CCC and graduated with an associate of arts degree in June 2017. Priscila then enrolled at Oregon State through the degree partnership program and hopes to one day be a teacher – just like her mother, who earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Universidad Pedagoica Nacional.
She’s currently studying Human Development and Family Sciences and says she loves everything about what she’s learning. “My instructors are so wonderful and caring for my education and this situation, and Oregon State has many good resources for students like me, including EOP, HSRC, department scholarships that don’t require citizenship, and ASOSU legal services. We are still working on many different resources that we’ll hopefully be releasing in the near future.”
Priscila is also active in Here to Stay, a group that provides support for undocumented students, and led a walkout in September after President Trump and the U.S. Justice Department announced DACA would end within six months. She also spoke at “Still We Rise – Women’s March Corvallis” in January to nearly 4,000 marchers.
“We want to do more work with the passing of a clean DREAM Act and legislation to give relief for undocumented students who are DACA recipients,” Priscila says. “These are people who have, like myself, been brought here to the U.S. They know the language, know the customs and grew up K-12 here. There needs to be a solution to this because we are people just like everyone else,” Priscila says. “I love the U.S. I love Oregon, I love Corvallis and Salem. I love it here. We need to do something for the Dreamers.”
What is DACA?
President Barack Obama established DACA through an executive order in 2012. It allows certain individuals who came to the United States as children to request deferred action against them for a two-year period, contingent on them meeting a list of qualifications. Students who have received aid from DACA are commonly referred to as Dreamers. They have the opportunity to get a temporary social security number, which among other things allows them to work and live in the United States without fear of deportation. On Sept. 5, 2017, President Trump and the U.S. Justice Department announced DACA would end within six months. Its status, at the time of publication, is uncertain.