Here to stay: DACA student speaks out


Brian Hayes

Wichita State Students Karen Segura and Jaime Segura hold up a sign and applaud during the #HereToStay support event held at the Historical County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon. (Sept. 5, 2017)

Tony Ibarra calls the United States home.

The sophomore mechanical engineering major is one of nearly 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients nationwide.

The DACA program, established in 2012, allows immigrants who arrived in the US before the age of 16 and have lived here since at least June 2007, to legally enroll in college, attain driver’s licenses, and find jobs. Recipients, often called Dreamers, can legally reside in the United States for two years. After that, they can apply for a renewal.

Ibarra was born in Mexico. He was just three years old when his mother and grandmother took he and his twin brother to the United States.

“We don’t remember anything at all from Mexico,” Ibarra said. “We don’t know the roads. We don’t know the food. We don’t know the people.”

Ibarra said he didn’t know it at the time, but his family was trying to escape severe poverty. His mother saw a brighter future for her sons in the United States.

“To be an American, it means the world,” Ibarra said. “It means you’re allowed to do the impossible.”

“My dream is to build highways across this great nation, to build stadiums, dams,” Ibarra said.
“One day, my brother and I will open up our own engineering firm.”

Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s plan to terminate DACA. No new applicants will be considered and current recipients have until Oct. 5 to apply for a two-year renewal.

“I was heartbroken,” Ibarra said.

Ibarra said he felt betrayed.

“You just can’t send young people who were raised here for the majority of their lives back to some unfamiliar territory,” he said. “It’s just not ethical. The moral code is not present. What Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump showed is pure cowardice.”

“These [DACA] recipients are going to be our future lawyers, surgeons, engineers, CEOs, entrepreneurs, first responders,” Ibarra said.

Ibarra said he doesn’t plan to take the news sitting down — he wants to be proactive.

“I want you all to call your representatives, your senators. Call for action,” Ibarra said. “We are not bystanders.”

Ibarra is no stranger to adversity. He said he realized early on that the odds have been stacked against him.

“I went to high school and that’s when the challenges really started rushing at me,” he said.

Ibarra dreamt of attending college but he knew that his family’s finances wouldn’t allow for it, unless he found scholarships.

“Being a DACA recipient, I could not apply for scholarships that many other people can,” he said. “I was heartbroken. . . frustrated that this government did not allow us the opportunity that they so promised.”

Then, Ibarra was introduced to the Kansas Hispanic Education & Development Foundation (KHEDF) which aims to provide educational opportunities to students like Ibarra.

“That was the light of hope at the end of the tunnel,” Ibarra said. Help from the KHEDF allowed Ibarra, the saludatorian of his class at Wichita West High, to enroll at Wichita State.

Ibarra said that when he became a Shocker, his big dreams that once seemed unattainable felt perfectly within reach.

He said he now feels that he has control of his future, and, with the support of the community, he plans to make the best of it.

“The community has shown some strong support and I hope this continues,” Ibarra said.

Although the status of DACA remains in limbo, Ibarra said he, and others like him, will not give up hope.

“Us immigrants will rise above these adversities and succeed,” Ibarra said. “That’s what we are here for.”

“Our resilience today and from here on out is going to be judged by the comeback from our weakest point to our highest point,” Ibarra said. “We are going to come back stronger than ever.”