Two nights a week, Kevin Robles stands outside the door of Cain and Abel’s, a West Campus bar, checking IDs. If he’s lucky, he’ll be home by 2:30am, but most nights he works until 4. It’s a modest part-time gig, but this is how he supports his family.
“Sometimes I have a lot of trouble making rent here, but the first thing I always do is give money to my mom to get food to my little brother,” said Robles, an international relations and global studies sophomore at UT.
While a part-time job for most students means a little extra spending money, for Robles, it’s a necessity. But he may soon lose his ability to work, if the Trump administration’s order to rescind DACA becomes a reality in March.
For Robles, losing DACA means he may no longer be able to provide for his family. Sending money back to his mom is especially important because it ensures that his younger brother can eat.
Due to complications with his free or reduced lunch application at school, his 15-year-old brother often walks home hungry. Inspired by how his mom left everything in Durango, Mexico for he and his brother, Robles has promised to use his spending money to help pay for his brother’s school lunches.
“My mom came here for better opportunities,” Robles said. “She wanted me to get an American education. She wanted me to grow up in an American life, so I don’t see what she had to go through in Mexico.”
When he was only six years old, his family agreed to separate to fulfill different dreams. His dad wanted to follow his passion for music in Mexico, while his mom dreamed of a better place to raise her children. Robles’ mom packed up everything and left to California. Months later, he joined her.
Robles still remembers crossing the border with a different family that his mother paid to transport him
“My mom said, ‘This is your family from now on,’ and I did everything the second family told me,” Robles said. “We just drove right through the border hoping they wouldn’t ask anything.”
Robles was interrogated at the border. Despite being so young, he understood he needed to play along in order to reunite with his mom again.
“I wasn’t really confused, I just wanted to go see my mom,” Robles said. “I knew that if I did this I would get to see her again.”
Robles was welcomed into the U.S. with a meal from McDonalds, but adjusting was still difficult for his family. Robles continued missing his father.
“Being taken away like that from my dad really took a toll on me when I was little,” Robles said. “I would always ask my mom, ‘Why can’t I go see him?’ And she’d tell me, ‘Well, you can’t come back if you do.’”
His family left California to stay with family in Dallas, Texas. His mom eventually saved up enough money to move into an apartment of their own. But his mom’s dream has always been to own a house.
Robles remembers his mom working from sunrise to sunset to save up enough money for their apartment. By going to college, Robles hopes to help fulfill his mom’s dream.
“My mom is always working,” Robles said. “She’s always stressed because she’s not going to make the bills. My one dream is to make sure my mom doesn’t have to pay another bill again.”
DACA allowed Robles to attend college without fear of deportation, but it didn’t solve all his problems. Robles said people assume DACA gives him benefits like free healthcare, but he has not had any form of healthcare since the day he moved to America. When his family gets sick, he takes matters into his own hands.
“I take care of myself and I take care of my family,” Robles said. “If they’re sick, I take them to the doctor. I pay full out of pocket for them. I have to make sure they’re healthy.”
With current DACA negotiations hanging in the air, Robles is unsure if he will even be able to graduate college. Right now, Robles’ DACA is set to expire in November of 2019, a semester before he graduates.
“I don’t have much of a say here,” Robles said. “Imagine being in a country without knowing if you’re going to get protection in the future. That’s how it still feels living here.”
Assuming he does not get deported, Robles’ only chance at citizenship is still at least six years away. He must wait for his brother, who is a citizen, to be old enough to vouch for him to gain any legal status.
“I really wish DACA would have a pathway to citizenship without having to wait for someone to be 21,” Robles said. “Once I get citizenship I would have more opportunities and more ways to help my family.”
Until then, he is left in limbo. Sometimes he thinks about how much easier it would be going back to Mexico to pursue a life, but he quickly remembers his family.
“I don’t want to see them disappointed,” Robles said. “I’m going to finish school and do what I can for them. I want (my brother) to have the best life possible.”
Without DACA, it is unlikely he will give his family a better life. While many fear deportation, Robles said he fears being ripped away from his family. He still remembers being separated from his dad and does not want his family to be torn apart twice.
“So far the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life is being separated from a parent at such a young age,” Robles said. “And having to go through that again, knowing that I’d get separated from my mom and my little brother, the most important people in my life, I feel like it’s going to hurt much more.”