Michigan's dreamers: Denis Martinez: ‘Sometimes, I feel like America doesn’t want me.’


DACA status: Expires in January 2020.

Backstory: He fled the violence of El Salvador with his mother and grandmother at age 4, traveling through Mexico by truck and by foot. His family fled to escape a nation beset by gangs and a murder rate 20 times that of of the United States. “It was robbery and gangs,” he said his family told him later. “Gangs were definitely one of the scariest things.That’s why they left. They wanted a better future.”

Achievements: He graduated from Godwin Heights High School, joining in wrestling, football, track and cross-country. He now attends Grand Rapids Community College. He also works a part-time job at a mall and lifts weights six days a week to stay fit.

Ambitions: Martinez wants to become an art teacher, but now feels a bit  betrayed. “I feel like I’ve done everything like any regular American kid would do – sports, get high grades and go on to college, get a job. Sometimes I feel like America doesn’t want me.”

Fears: His younger brother Christian, 15, is a U.S. citizen and competes on sports teams at Kelloggsville High. “I cheer him on all the time. It would suck not seeing him graduate.” He adds: “When Trump says ‘nothing to worry about,’ that doesn’t give me confidence at all. He changes his mind the next day and says, ‘Nevermind, I’m not for it anymore.’”

Plan if DACA expires: “I’ve been taking up more hours at work, trying to save for a rainy day. I’ve been talking to my parents and they haven’t been really helpful. One thing is my parents really don’t want me to go back. It’s definitely a confusing time for me.”

Reaction to possible deal: “If Trump is going to do something, it will be because of the pressure he feels from the American people.  I don’t necessarily think I can trust him to do this.”

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Tue, 09/19/2017 - 1:18pm

I am having trouble understanding why his 15 year old brother is a citizen and he is not. Is it because his brother was born in US?

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 2:36pm

Have you applied for citizenship during your stay here?

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 12:01pm

Denis, America does want LEGAL immigrants, those who follow the process and apply to be here legally. Most Americans do not like "line jumpers", those who take cuts over others standing in line and think they should be the first to get whatever others are standing in line for, which in this case is the ability to be legally in the United States. If you had applied for citizenship 16 years ago, you would probably have it by now.