Marcos Valencia is one of the reasons immigration reform needs to happen. The 19-year-old was born in Altamira, Tamaulipas, Mexico and taken illegally to the United States by his mother when he was three. His mom married a U.S. truck driver, Daniel Hamby, who helped raise Valencia most of his life, even after he and Valencia’s mother divorced and she remarried. Valencia was on track to graduate from high school in Indiana, which would have qualified him for President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but his chances were ruined when he was forced to return to Mexico with his mother in 2013 after her second husband was deported.
"We had no money cuz we spent it all trying to get my stepfather back to the United States. After that, we lost a lot of money. We were living with my mom's friend. After that, my mom took the decision to take all of us—my sisters and my brothers—to Mexico. So, I had to come. I couldn't say no. Couldn't run away because I was underage," Valencia said.
Now Valencia can't get back into the United States, and he's living in a migrant shelter in Matamoros across the border from Brownsville, Texas. He speaks little Spanish, has no ID and can't find a job that pays a living wage.
The Texas Tribune caught up with him and Hamby in Matamoros. Hamby was there to bring Valencia some money and clothes and discuss the immigration situation.
“We are talking to some lawyers up north,” Hamby said. “We are just trying to get, trying to get the paperwork rolling.”
But Valencia, who is now separated from his mother and doesn’t know her whereabouts, is homeless and broke. He’s been told there’s no hope of him being allowed back into the United States.
“That boy is American,” Hamby told the Tribune. “He ain’t no Mexican. He looks Mexican, but he is American, trust me. He was raised up there since he was three. He is an American child, that is all there is to it.”
Valencia’s real-life horror story is a situation that millions of young people in this country find themselves in, through no fault of their own, after they are brought into a situation fraught with legal issues before they are old enough to advocate on their own behalves.
Since 2001, legislation has been introduced and reintroduced into Congress that would allow relief for undocumented minors through a multi-phase process for becoming permanent residents provided they are pursuing an education or a career in the military. But since 2001, such legislation has failed to pass time and time again. It’s a blight on the American record. One that history will look back upon as our moral failure.