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NC DREAMer Wonders What's Next

Zuleyma Castrejon
Zuleyma Castrejon moved to North Carolina when she was 2 years-old. She's now 24 and teaches art in Charlotte. She's pictured with her own artwork.

The future of a program that shields some young immigrants from deportation is uncertain. Last week, a federal judge halted the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, until litigation can be heard. The Department of Justice appealed that case Thursday directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. That comes as Congress debates what to do with the program, which expires in March.

Zuleyma Castrejon is one of about 800,000 immigrants who has this status. She grew up in Monroe and ended up getting a full ride to Johnson C. Smith University. She graduated in 2016 and now teaches at Community School of the Arts in Charlotte.

How closely have you been following the litigation and political debate around DACA?

I try to sometimes know what's going on, but after a certain point it just gets to be too overwhelming. I don't want to get too attached, if that makes any sense, because everything can change from one moment to another.

What's it like to live with that uncertainty of whether or not there will be a fix to the DACA program?

I've been in this country since I was 2 years old, so I've been here for 22 years. After a time I just got used to being in the country as an undocumented immigrant and I always think about how it's stressful to not know what's going to happen in your future. But also I think about how I've lived this my entire life and this is all that I know. So for me it's hard. But at the same time I'm sort of in a place right now where I just can't let it take over my life.

Do you have any idea what you would do if the program is not renewed or if it’s canceled?

If DACA ends, I think I would start looking into other options. Leaving the country for me doesn't seem as drastic as it seemed when I was in high school. But I don't want to leave the country and go back to Mexico, even though it is my home because I know nothing about what it is to live in Mexico or to be a Mexican who grew up in a foreign country in Mexico. So if it comes to that I think I would rather just leave the country, instead of being in a place where you don't feel wanted.

Do you know what your family would do?

My parents don't want me to leave I don't think that's a possibility in their mind. And if I do leave I know that I can’t go to my state where I'm from, where all my family is living right now, because it's just a very violent state in Mexico and it's overwhelmed with drug cartels and violence.