Hector Salamanca, a volunteer and intern with AFSC's office in Des Moines, was honored on June 17, 2014, by the White House as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) White House Champion of Change.
As a kid growing up, I was always inspired by individuals who had come from a disadvantaged background and had found a way to leave a lasting impact on their community and their peers. I am incredibly honored to be a White House Champion of Change and this opportunity has allowed me to reflect on how service to the community not only lifts one individual, but the whole community. For me, lifting up the future generation of Latino youth who have benefitted from DACA and those who have not is the end goal.
Being a DACA recipient is a privilege that has allowed me and other DACA recipients to go out into our respective communities and connect with each other, as well as educate each other and gives us an opportunity to interact with individuals who are going through the same experiences. Being able to step out of shadows allows us to engage the broader community without fear of reprisal, and combat the social injustices that we face.
My personal story with DACA begins right after the program was announced in the summer of 2011, and I realized that I no longer had to be afraid of being sent back to a country I left as a young child, but could remain in my adopted country, where I had recited the pledge of allegiance daily and had strived to live up to our commonly taught American values. No longer fearful, I began to speak out, and I officially came out as being an aspiring American to a crowd of humane immigration reform supporters, which was exhilarating and relieving at the same time. I began to start volunteering, first with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) office in Des Moines, Organizing for America, Latinos Unidos of Iowa, Inc. and LULAC Iowa, all organizations dedicated to advancing the local Latino community. Through these different organizations, I went and talked to the Latino youth of my community, informing them about DACA and its requirements, as well as its benefits. Slowly but surely, my meetings about DACA and information, became how to organize the youth of the community and have them engage with our political system and our educational system. The focus of community betterment began to shift for myself when I started Drake University in the fall of 2013, when I began to realize that as a community we had to reach out to our youngest members and motivate them to aspire to higher education, thus improving their odds of success, and I have made it a goal of mine to make sure that their immigration status does not play a negative and limiting role in their future.
Currently I am employed at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa, an organization that has allowed me to continue working with Latino youth at a more direct level, specifically showing these youth an individual who is not so different from them, and who is encouraging them to reach for higher education. Easily the biggest benefit for myself regarding DACA, was knowing that since the program could potentially not be renewed, I had to go out and motivate other youth, regardless of how young they were, and show them that our immigration status does not limit our opportunities, but that we must persevere and challenge the status quo, as well as help and motivate each other to participate in the community. It is up to us to change the current immigration system, and we cannot rest until it is so.
Hector A. Salamanca Arroyo is a youth development professional at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa, a security officer for Securitas, and a student at Drake University, as well as a dedicated Latino community member.