Irene Garcia-Brizuela considers herself “pretty much an American citizen…just not on paper.”
The California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) advertising and public relations major has lived in the United States since she was 10 days old, when her mother, a Mexican citizen, brought her across the border to stay with her grandmother in Lynwood. After graduating from Lynwood High School, she attained an A.A. degree in journalism from Long Beach City College before moving on to CSUDH.
The U.S. is the only home that Garcia-Brizuela has ever known, despite technically being a Mexican citizen. She is one of thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, also known as Dreamers, whose legal status has been thrown into limbo by recent political upheaval. This fall, as Congress debated continuing the program through a new bill called the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, Garcia-Brizuela found herself in the spotlight when Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán related her story on the congressional floor.
Garcia-Brizuela works part-time as an intern in the congresswoman’s San Pedro office, a position she obtained with the help of one of her communications professors, Lisa Mastramico. Gracia-Brizuela job involves answering phones, addressing citizens’ concerns, and referring constituents to the proper resources. Knowing that Diaz Barragán was fighting for DACA students, Garcia-Brizuela told her that she was a DACA recipient herself, and was happy that the congresswoman was trying to support Dreamers through the bill.
When the congresswoman asked if she could tell Garcia-Brizuela’s story, “I was very excited,” she says. “I know it’s not just my story, it’s the story of other Dreamers like myself, and I know that most of them are scared to come out and say they are Dreamers. But this is what I want to do. I want to help people. Hearing the story of someone who is going through the same things you’re experiencing can mean a lot.”
During the debate, Congresswoman Diaz Barragán shared that Garcia-Brizuela has always wanted to work in government and help others, but due to her DACA status she is not legally allowed to do that. The congresswoman related Garcia-Brizuela’s work for her office, and said that there are lots of DACA students in a similar situation—not being able to do what they want with their lives because they don’t have legal status.
As a DACA recipient, Garcia-Brizuela says, “I’m both excited and worried about the future. If they revoke DACA, what will I do? Will I be able to finish my education? If I do finish, how will I be able to get a job? Or could I even get deported?” If she can get her status changed, Garcia-Brizuela plans to keep working in government and politics when she graduates in May, 2020; if not, she hopes to launch her career in a marketing firm.
For fellow Dreamers anxious about the future, Garcia-Brizuela advises them to “keep dreaming and pursuing what you want to do. I know that one way or another the solutions for us will be there. Most of all, don’t be scared. You’re not alone.”