Mexican Immigrant Leads Advocacy Work to Promote Sensible Immigration Reform, Helping Pave Opportunities for Immigrant Community

Juan Carlos Cerda, Texas State Director, American Business Immigration Coalition

Juan Carlos Cerda shares a worry with some 580,000 immigrants in America: Will this be the year he’s kicked out of the country? Will the United States ever create a path to permanent residency that allows him to feel secure in the only home he’s known? 

Juan Carlos’ parents brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was 3 years old, and he grew up in Dallas—an undocumented immigrant with undocumented parents. He couldn’t apply for jobs, couldn’t get a driver’s license, couldn’t travel to the border with his high school teams. At home, he worried people would come to take his parents away. 

Juan Carlos succeeded nonetheless, winning a scholarship to attend Yale University. (In order to travel between home and school, he had to first apply for a Mexican passport.) 

After his freshman year, and, “thanks to the advocacy of undocumented students nationwide,” Juan Carlos said, President Barack Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The 2012 order gives qualifying immigrants who were brought to the country as children a temporary reprieve from deportation and the right to work legally. 

“It completely changed my life,” Juan Carlos said. He applied for campus jobs, got a driver’s license, and studied abroad—all unimaginable without DACA. After graduating with a history degree, he spent two years teaching kindergarten in Dallas through Teach for America. 

That’s the first time—and, he hopes, the last—that his worry materialized. DACA must be renewed every two years, and in 2016 the federal government experienced a backlog. Juan Carlos’s status lapsed. Once again, he was undocumented. 

The school district suspended him without pay. He couldn’t even volunteer there. He couldn’t get another job. “It was a challenging time,” he said. “It made me realize that it’s very temporary in nature.” 

Juan Carlos has since dedicated himself to promoting sensible immigration reform, currently as the Texas state director of the American Business Immigration Coalition. 

“My biggest worry is that there will be another bad court ruling, and the Supreme Court could order DACA to be eliminated.” 

What would he do then? He doesn’t know. He just knows that he would lose everything he has. 

“DACA has just opened up so many opportunities,” he said. He and his wife have bought a home and a car. They can provide for their families. “It’s the American dream.” 

Most Read

  • Publications
  • Blog Posts
  • Past:
  • Trending