Victoria Tricamo is a 28-year-old Kingston mother, wife and bank employee. She is bubbly, sensitive, filled with love, quick to a smile, passionate and devotes every square inch of her entire universe to her daughter, husband and family. Tricamo was living the American Dream as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient until the recent election suddenly found her questioning her inherent sense of security, identity and role in the land that has been her home since age 14. (Those enrolled in the DACA program are referred to as “Dreamers” after the failed-in-Congress DREAM Act proposal to make a path to naturalization for people brought to the U.S. as undocumented immigrants as children.
Now, like some 800,000 other people in her situation, her fate is very far from certain. President Trump this week announced he would end the DACA program in six months, in order to prod Congress in to coming up with a permanent plan for the so-called “Dreamers.” But whether Congress will do something or what that something will actually be is anybody’s guess.
Where do you live?
I’ve been a Kingston resident for over 10 years.
Where are you from?
I was born in Uruguay which is in South America right between Brazil and Argentina.
How old were you when you moved here? How old were your siblings?
I was about 14 years old when we arrived to the United States, my brother must’ve been 12 or so.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in the city of Montevideo, Uruguay. I did up to middle school back home before I came to the United States. In 2003 when I arrived in the states, I lived in Brooklyn for about a year, I went to Bushwick School for Social Justice, they gave me basic classes all in Spanish as that is my first language. Attending bilingual classes certainly did not help me at all to learn English, but it did give me a sense that I was not alone, that there were people from all over the place in the same situation as me.
When I came to Kingston I did four years of high school at Kingston High School where I graduated. I became fluent in English to the point where some people are surprised I even speak Spanish. I was a good student; I was involved in after school activities such as the International Club, created by ESL (English as a second language) students. We would come together as one, leaving our difference aside and embracing what made us unique … we shared our fears as foreign students, learned different words in other languages, shared our authentic cuisines. When I was in 10th grade, I volunteered at the YMCA of Kingston translating for staff members when Spanish-speaking families wanted to enroll in their programs.
What was it like to live in a foreign land, and to go to school with a different language as a child?
It was a total cultural shock. KHS looked like something out of a Hollywood teenage movie to me. I attended classes in English, it was so difficult to understand teachers and students. I was always a shy girl; I wouldn’t talk much. I was afraid that I would say something wrong. I remember walking home upset that I was never going to be able to understand or speak English fluently, but most of all I was afraid I would fail school.
I did one year and a half of college at Ulster County Community College, unfortunately I had to stop due to financial reasons. I was not eligible for any sort of financial aid.
I have been married for a year and a half to my husband who I met back in 2012. He is an American citizen born in Ohio of Italian descent. We have a beautiful 3-year-old daughter.
Where do you work and what do you do?
Aside from being a full-time mom, I am also a payroll processor at a great local financial institution.
What do you do for fun or to blow off steam?
Personally if I can just quietly sit at Barnes and Nobles and enjoy a coffee drink with a book, I am happiest. If I need to blow off some steam, I try to make it to the gym. Running gives me a sense of empowerment.
Does your daughter speak Spanish? Does your husband?
I try to talk to her in Spanish as much as I can, at times she will talk to my husband in Spanish which is very funny since he does not speak it. Don’t let him fool you… he understands it for sure.
Why did your family move here?
As cliché as it may sound, it was the American Dream. We were very financially stable in Uruguay. My mother worked at a laboratory for one of the leading rice manufacturers in Uruguay. My father was a welder and the dreamer. He wanted a better future for my brother and I.
Are you an American citizen? What do you have to do to maintain your status?
I am not an American citizen just yet. I am currently covered under DACA, which only provides a two-year work permit and a Social Security card to be able to work in the United States legally, obtain a driver’s license and in some cases, travel domestically. Every two years I have to renew my work permit, which is a pretty good sum of money in fees and travel expenses to the city. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services does a thorough background check on all applicants, since one of the conditions to obtain DACA is a clean criminal record. Thankfully, since I have been married for a year now to an American citizen, I qualify for a green card which is a step before becoming a citizen. Even that is not as simple as it sounds, both my husband and I have to be interviewed by USCIS, prove that we are an actual married couple and fees are a lot more expensive than the renewal of DACA.
Do you know other D.A.C.A. recipients?
Yes, I have a lot of friends who are recipients of the benefit. Some of them are nurses, bankers and business owners.
How did you feel when President Trump was first running his campaign against immigrants before he was elected?
My heart hurt every time he said immigrants were rapists, drug dealers and bad people.
That sort of people that he described come from anywhere — including the United States. We are not criminals, we are people with decency and religious beliefs with family values and morals.
Were you at all concerned for your family or yourself once he was elected?
How could I not? The United States is all I have ever known. I made a life for myself here. I have a good job that will turn into my career. I am married, and I have a child. I wish someone would have the guts to tell my child that her mom will no longer tuck her in at night, take her to daycare, hug her, kiss her or make her well when she’s sick because the government has decided that she no longer belongs here.
How did you feel when President Trump announced his intention to end DACA?
It felt like right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” doesn’t belong to DACA recipients. We have made it so far, we paid our dues, graduated high school, some graduated college … embraced American culture and this is just an “OK, good for you, now get out.” We are dreamers and doers with the right to the “American Dream.”
Did you grow up feeling secure about your citizenship, or did you ever worry that being deported was a possibility?
I never really began to question my status until I was getting out of high school and going into college. My friends would all go to the Caribbean for spring break, or they would ask why I couldn’t continue college and just get financial aid.
Will your siblings be affected?
No, my brother will become a citizen within the next year or so.
How is your family reacting to this possibility?
“This too shall pass.” We are very positive, we surround ourselves with positive people and we are a united front.
Have you ever been back to Uruguay?
I have not since I left.
What job could you do if you had to move back to Uruguay? What job could your husband do?
I could do something that involves international phone calls, I could work at a bank. My husband is a mechanic, which I think is pretty universal.
Can you picture yourselves living elsewhere?
I cannot. Honestly it fills me with fear to even think that I would have to leave my family behind and start fresh.
Tell me about your fears, anger, anxieties or other thoughts rolling through your mind.
I fear that I will have to leave my family, especially my daughter. I am terrified to be separated from my husband — he is my rock — he keeps me safe.
How does this impact you?
In a way, it makes want to fight for my community and for people who don’t have a voice, who are afraid to come out of the shadows, as I was.
Have your friends been supportive? Have you learned anything about your friends through this that surprises or disappoints you?
My close friends and people I surround myself with usually have the same feelings as I do in regards of what is happening in the country. I have been surprised by people I thought were friends, who have turned out to be bigots and have closed minds about immigration.
What do you want people to know?
I want people to know that I consider myself in every way an American, like I’ve said before: I pay the same taxes everyone else pays, I contribute to the economy, I speak fluently, I have adapted the American culture as my own. Do not hold me accountable for the action of a few.
Matthew 25:35-40 says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me in … ”
How can your friends, neighbors and fellow community members support you?
Get to know us, our stories, who we are. You will be amazed at what you find. Come together as one — our nation, your nation, my nation — was built on immigrants. Talk to your foreign neighbors, be proactive and don’t be silent. We must support one another in such times.