WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES: Election could have severe consequences for immigrants who’ve built lives here

(Photo by Álvaro Alvarado)
On May 1, 2006, sophomore Gabi Alvarado, her mother, Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo, and her father, Álvaro Alvarado, attended a protest at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., where they were living at the time. The protest was in reaction to the House of Representatives passing the Sensenbrenner Bill, which classified undocumented immigrants as felons.

Sophomore Gabi Alvarado, who enjoys writing, will blog biweekly on the origins of her creativity and artistic vision.

A year ago, I couldn’t care less about the election.

When we went to our aunt’s house for Mother’s and Father’s Day, she and my dad would discuss politics endlessly and she was always very clear in her opinion: she was for Hillary. I wanted no part in this discussion, and, most times, I would quietly leave the room to read or watch TV. This whole year, in fact, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what the candidates said or what went on concerning the race.

In the election eight years ago, I didn’t really know what was going on – I was just happy with my parents that Obama won the presidency. This election was very different.

Through the first years of Obama’s term, my family talked about how he hadn’t done enough to reform immigration, and that more people were getting deported more than ever before.

Keep in mind, I have extremely liberal relatives, and some are immigrants themselves. They know what it’s like to be petrified when they see a police officer; when they turn on the news, fearing a restricting law or tragedies in their home country; or when they see a family member is missing at Christmas.

Sophomore Gabi Alvarado

I’ve heard stories about immigrants in college who are supporting their entire families, financially and emotionally, and hoping for a better future. These are people who have done everything they can to support their family and get an education for themselves.

One such story I was enthralled to hear was from an amazing young woman, a family friend, who goes to Sac State. She was born in Mexico and lived there with her dad, who had gone blind due to retinal detachment, before she had been born. He was never able to see his daughter’s face.

When she was in lower school, her left eye was injured, and she developed an eye infection. This was a treatable infection, but her family couldn’t afford medical care, so she soon went blind in that eye. After that, she and her mom came to the U.S., and when she was in her mid-teens, her retina detached in her right eye. Today, she can  see only vague shapes, and she can’t really read at all. She has to continuously ask her professors to say aloud what they write on the board. She also has a husband and a baby girl.

When asked if she would try various procedures to try to get her eyesight back, she said no. She replied that there were risks in those procedures, and even if she eventually went blind, she would have the memory of seeing her daughter’s face.

(Photo by Álvaro Alvarado)
Protesters hold a banner at a rally against the Sensenbrenner Bill on their march to the Capitol in 2006.

This is just one incredible story that’s out there. That woman is just one who was affected by DACA – Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals. This was one of President Obama’s executive orders, one that has helped over 800,000 immigrants live as safely and as normally as they can here.

DACA is for immigrants who arrived here under the age of 16, have stayed in the country since then, have stayed out of legal trouble and have earned their GED or served in the military. These people are granted a non-immigrant legal status, protection against deportation and the ability to receive a two-year work permit. They are also allowed to get a driver’s license. They are able to live a normal life here.

Throughout this whole election, DACA’s termination has been on my mind. Although I know there may be more racism, sexism, homophobia and the like, this one issue keeps me up at night. Our new president will be able to redact DACA with one signature, as this was President Obama’s executive order. And there’s a lot of fear in people who rely on DACA, which means there can be a lot of violence.

That’s what’s got me down about this election and what it entails. Not that a Republican won. Not that a Conservative won. But that someone who has incited so much violence, fear and hate won. So I wrote a poem about it. I got the title from a trending immigrant activist slogan: “Here to Stay.”




Yesterday morning I woke up with hope.

Hope that in the next few years,

I wouldn’t be scared every time I heard a siren.

A knock on the door.


This morning I woke up fearing the future.

I fear what will happen in the next few years.

Will my family be deported?

(Photo by Álvaro Alvarado)
Protesters rally against the Sensenbrenner Bill at the Capitol in 2006.

Where will we go?


Hundreds of thousands of people

Woke up like me.

What will happen to our families?

What will happen to our values?


Where has our pride gone?

Where is the strength,

To look our children in the eye

And tell them that we just don’t know?

By Gabi Alvarado

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