Salvadoran ‘Dreamer’ with cancer fears deportation
Jose Guevara doesn’t remember his life in El Salvador.
The 23-year-old college student was brought to the United States when he was 9 and never went back.
Guevara’s family came to the country under the Temporary Protected Status program — his dad has been here for almost 20 years and his mom for 15. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that TPS protections would end for more than 250,000 Salvadorans in September 2019.
TPS allows immigrants to legally work in the United States and Guevara said his parents have worked hard.
“They hustled and they were able to get into better positions for themselves and always gave me the best that they could. Even after they divorced,” he said.
Guevara’s dad works at a plant in Texas and his mom has a government job in the Los Angeles area with health benefits.
Those benefits have been vital to Guevara, who is battling leukemia.
“I was diagnosed at 15, I relapsed at 19 and a month short of my 21st birthday and I have relapsed now at 23,” he said. He’s in the hospital now for more treatment.
Guevara can stay on his mom’s insurance until he’s 26 under the Affordable Care Act, but that won’t do him much good if she has to leave the country and loses her job.
He is protected, for now, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, because he came to the country as a child. More than 700,000 young people, often referred to as “Dreamers,” are covered by DACA.
Congress and President Donald Trump are working to extend the popular immigration program, so he may be able to stay, even if his parents can’t.
“That is one of my biggest fears right now,” he said from his hospital room.
One of Guevara’s grandmothers lives in El Salvador, but he doesn’t know anyone else there. He’s also concerned that he wouldn’t be accepted there because he is gay.
“El Salvador is not accepting of the LGBT community. Their policies are not LGBT-friendly or women-friendly at all,” he said.
Guevara is majoring in political science at California State University, Los Angeles. He hopes to graduate in fall 2019, but is taking time off for his treatment.
He’s become a political activist in response to President Trump’s policies and says many members of his extended family are trying to get their citizenship, so they can increase the family’s voting power.
Guevara said he gets some comfort from the fact that most Americans want Dreamers to be able to stay in the country.
“It’s a bittersweet taste because I want my parents to be wanted, as well.”