Meet Elias Rosenfeld, a student at Brandeis University, an Immigrant Heritage Month awardee, and a DACA recipient. “I came to America when I was six years old from Venezuela with my mom and my sister. We immigrated over to America legally under an L-1 visa. With this visa, you renew it for five years, renew it again, apply for a green card and you’re basically a citizen. Meaning, if all had gone to plan, then I would have been a citizen today.”
Unfortunately, six years after moving to America, Elias experienced a pain like no other. “When I was twelve years old, my mom passed away from cancer. At the time, aside from dealing with trauma that comes with the death of your mom at a young age, I also found out that her passing meant I was undocumented. I had this confirmed the day I went to get my learners permit. It wasn’t that my application got rejected, it was that I was not even allowed to fill out an application. It was so embarrassing because up until this point, I thought I was American. I had won the United States history award every year in Middle School, and I fell in love with the way that anyone could engage with the political system. America was the only home that I knew. In that moment, however, I had the shock realization that you can call this your home in your head, but you don’t have the same rights of everyone here. I’ll never forget that feeling.”
Elias did not let this shock paralyze him, instead he was motivated. At just twelve years old Elias begun his advocacy work. “I got really involved in the senate to fight for the passage of an immigration bill. After much hard work and organizing I was so ecstatic to hear that the bill passed through the senate since the senate was, traditionally, the main barrier to immigration. Unfortunately, once the bill moved to the House of Representatives, they decided to not take the bill. I think that’s what really put me into advocacy mode.” Elias was frustrated by the fact that the House did not even bother to review the immigration bill when he and many others had worked so hard on it.
Elias was infuriated with the outcome of the bill, but was even more concerned about the fact that there were so many other children with stories like his who do not have a pathway to citizenship. “The system is broken, someone who did everything legally to become a citizen managed to fall out of status. Unless there was a way to stop my mother from dying, I did everything I could to become a citizen. We need to fix the system.”
In addition to fighting for those with similar stories to his, Elias fights for the new generation of undocumented children who did not come on their own and will not have the opportunities granted by DACA. Elias remembers what it was like without DACA. He understands the importance of having a program that offers work authorization and a social security number because he knows the enormous impact it has had on his life. “I am truly mobilized by the thought that there are thousands of children that do not have and will not have these opportunities. I fight because there are so many people in my shoes and I have always believed in doing everything you can to help others avoid the hardships you went through.”
Although Elias is fighting a seemingly never ending battle, he continues to push on through adversity. “My proudest moment is from this year. I was able to create nationwide partnerships with peripheral organizations that otherwise would not be engaged in the fight for DACA through advocacy, organizing, and education. Additionally, on a local scale, I was able to advocate to help DACA recipients at my university receive free legal aid. Elias has has experienced multiple wins throughout his advocacy work, but Elias considers his wins from this year his proudest moments because he believes the effects of these accomplishments will be long lasting. “There is a huge lack of education about DACA recipients, so a lot of my advocacy work is based on education. To see that these peripheral organizations who are not immigration centric groups are joining the fight is special. It is proof that my advocacy efforts, alongside others, are working.”
Moreover, Elias’s achievements have been recognized by I am an Immigrant. “When I first heard that I was receiving the Immigrant Heritage Month award, I was really shocked. It was a very surreal very proud moment because it gave recognition to the advocacy work that I am doing that is not being done by a lot of people. It really reiterated the impact of my achievements and it made me proud to know that my organizing efforts have fueled the fight for a permanent solution for dreamers.”
Elias is proud of his accomplishments, but the fight is not over. Elias continues to move forward with his advocacy work to protect dreamers. “In the near future I will be prioritizing my efforts towards November. Since policy is paused, it is now an electoral game and I will be applying the same strategies I do for lobbying, but for organizing. We need people to vote for immigration policy, so I am focusing on empowering the people who do not usually vote, but otherwise could, to vote. There are 799,999 other people like me who would love to vote considering this is a matter concerning our lives, but we can’t. That is why we need people who can vote to vote.” Following his advocacy work, Elias hopes to attend law school and after law school Elias is aiming to run for office. Elias is and will continue to fight for what he believes in.
Similar to every person, Elias has a story. A story that has shaped his dreams and the actions he takes to keep that dream alive. Elias alongside all DACA recipients, all people, have a dream. A dream we are striving for.
We all know someone with an immigration experience or have an immigrant heritage story of our own. Join us in sharing your story for a chance to be featured on our official channels!