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Wyoming DACA recipient’s response to Trump goes viral

Shortly after President Trump announced Tuesday that he would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program over six months, 18-year-old Wyoming resident and DACA recipient Jicell Gracia-Ortiz decided to vent her frustration online. The resulting Facebook post quickly went viral.

There are more than 600 DACA recipients in Wyoming, according to Department of Homeland Security data cited by the organization Interfaith Worker Justice. They all have a story, Gracia-Ortiz said, and she wanted to share hers.

She wanted to make people understand the uncertainty she now faces, she said, and humanize the debate over DACA and immigration. Many who knew her did not previously realize that she had come to the country illegally, she said.

“I don’t want to say that I have a lot of anger towards people, but I have frustration for those that don’t understand what it’s like to be in this position,” she told WyoFile in a phone interview. As of Thursday afternoon, two days after she published it, her post had been shared more than 1,700 times. It had spread well beyond Gracia-Ortiz’s personal network. Her own post had 242 comments.

Gracia-Ortiz began the post with a nod toward the language often used by President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and other hard-line immigration policy advocates.

“Dear #America,” she wrote, “I apologize for breaking the law when I was merely three years old. I apologize for stealing an American citizen’s job, and I apologize for supposedly costing tax payers money for attending school and going to college.”

“I didn’t ask my mother at three years old to take me into an unknown country,” she wrote. “I didn’t ask to be an undocumented person. I didn’t ask her to leave her family behind, so she could give me a better life. I didn’t ask her to break the law.”

Particularly frustrating to Gracia-Ortiz, she told WyoFile, are the notions that immigrants were “freeloaders,” benefitting off the taxes paid by others, and the refrain that she, and her parents, should just become citizens. “It doesn’t work that way,” she said. The citizenship process can take years and many who crossed the border illegally, often out of concerns for safety or economic desperation, fear that approaching officialdom could lead to deportation, not documentation.

In this photo which accompanied her Facebook post, Jicell Gracia-Ortiz clutches her high school diploma from Cheyenne South High School. (Jicell Gracia-Ortiz/Facebook)

For Gracia-Ortiz, DACA offered an opportunity to begin that process safely, and so she took it, she said.

“The reality is that I AM a tax payer as well,” she wrote in her post. “I pay into Social Security from my paycheck, however, I will never see a penny of it. My biweekly paychecks this summer would be of $50-$70 dollars because I was a server. I earned $2.75/hr, and we were almost always hiring. So whose job did I take?”

“I’m not eligible for Medicaid and I was never eligible for ‘Obamacare,’” she wrote.

Today, Gracia-Ortiz studies nursing at Central Wyoming College. Wyoming has a shortage of nurses, and the problem is predicted to get worse because of the state’s aging population, according to recent reporting in the Casper Star-Tribune.

Unable to apply for federal student-aid programs, Gracia-Ortiz received two state scholarships to attend CWC, she said. One was for her high ACT scores. The rest of her college costs she and her parents are paying out of pocket.

Most comments on her Facebook post were encouraging, supportive of Gracia-Ortiz. Some were not. “Can’t feel sorry for the whole f—ing world!” one poster commented. “Time to take care of Americans before there’s no Americans to take care of.”

Gracia-Ortiz said she doesn’t know any of the people who wrote negative comments. “I felt like I was gonna get a lot of judgement,” she said, “and I did.”

A few commenters identified with Gracia-Ortiz’s predicament while also expressing worries about broader immigration policy.

“I feel that strictly in a policy sense, we cannot allow benefits to people who were snuck into the country,” one woman wrote. “I feel as a simple person that you probably grew up here and are as much of an American and patriot as me. What can we do?”

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Gracia-Ortiz grew up in Cheyenne, where she attended Cheyenne South High School. She played soccer, ran track and said she always knew she wanted to pursue a higher education. She has three siblings, all of whom were born in the United States and thus are citizens.

When she turned 15, the legal age to apply for DACA, she began the process. She submitted her application in November, she said, and the following August received paperwork allowing her to work legally, get a driver’s license and not fear deportation or arrest. “It gave me a lot of hope,” she said.

Gracia-Ortiz remains hopeful, this time that Congress can come up with a permanent solution for DACA recipients, as Trump has asked it to do. Her current work permit will last until the fall of next year, she said. Wyoming is the home Gracia-Ortiz knows, she said, and she has never been back to Mexico.

“I would feel lost,” she said, when asked what could happen if DACA was not fixed and she was forced to return to Mexico. “It’d be like being a tourist in a different country.”

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About the Author

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Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at [email protected], follow him @AndrewGraham88

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6 Responses to Wyoming DACA recipient’s response to Trump goes viral

  1. Sharon Lovercheck September 12, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

    Jicell,
    I want to thank you for being a good student and then pursuing a nursing career. This is a difficult curriculum and even getting into the program requires a lot of academic performance. Who wouldn’t be proud of you. Wyoming needs you as does our country. May my fellow citizens who oppose DACA come to their sences!

    Cheyenne, Wyoming

  2. Charlie Donnes September 12, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    Deporting “illegals” is all about limiting competition: guaranteeing work (but do there’s no evidence that they ever take any work) & elevated status to the mentally & politically deficient who accidentally were born here (and maybe had the further luck to inherit or marry a ranch).

    Billings, Montana

  3. Antonio Serrano September 9, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

    Hey Eddie here is how she can be a resident

    res·i·dent
    ˈrez(ə)dənt/Submit
    noun
    1.a person who lives somewhere permanently or on a long-term basis.

    Hope that helped you understand. Also maybe learn what it takes to qualify as a citizen before you say things like “she needs to go through the process of becoming a citizen” its not easy and there are a lot of grey areas. Her situation is absolutely our fault. do some research into how the US basically destroyed Latin America.

    Can i ask you something Eddie? What do you mean by bring America back? do you mean the part of America and Wyoming that the US stole from Mexico? or maybe you mean the part of America that was stolen from Native Americans When US decided their privilege entitled them to this land? you can’t claim rights to land that was stolen.

    one last thing Eddie, She is not our problem, She is our responsibility. these are human beings lives not just numbers. Have a heart.

    Cheyenne, Wyoming

  4. Eddie Juve September 8, 2017 at 7:29 am #

    I am curious how this girl can be a resident of Wyoming when she isn’t even a legal citizen of the United States? I understand what she is saying but as a native resident of the state of wyoming I feel the need to ask how this is our problem? Is it our fault, as US citizens, that her mother snuck her into our country and broke the law? We need to bring America back. Our America. Not an illegal America. This young woman needs to go through our process of becoming a legal citizen just like everyone else. That is why we have that process. To allow everyone into our country to become a US citizen.

    Torrington, Wyoming

    • Antonio Serrano September 9, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

      Hey Eddie here is how she can be a resident

      res·i·dent
      ˈrez(ə)dənt/Submit
      noun
      1.a person who lives somewhere permanently or on a long-term basis.

      Hope that helped you understand. Also maybe learn what it takes to qualify as a citizen before you say things like “she needs to go through the process of becoming a citizen” its not easy and there are a lot of grey areas. Her situation is absolutely our fault. do some research into how the US basically destroyed Latin America.

      Can i ask you something Eddie? What do you mean by bring America back? do you mean the part of America and Wyoming that the US stole from Mexico? or maybe you mean the part of America that was stolen from Native Americans When US decided their privilege entitled them to this land? you can’t claim rights to land that was stolen.

      one last thing Eddie, She is not our problem, She is our responsibility. these are human beings lives not just numbers. Have a heart.

      Cheyenne, Wyoming

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      Cheyenne, Wyoming

    • Deb Sanders September 10, 2017 at 7:35 am #

      She is doing exactly as you say, legally applying to become a US citizen. She is a resident of WY because she resides here. It is not your “fault” that she is here, but she is contributing to society and one day she may be your nurse. Her existence here seems to be a good thing, not bad. She is contributing, not taking.

      Jackson, Wyoming

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