This year hasn’t turned out how I expected it to. This was a year with a lot of milestones for me. I was turning 18, graduating from high school, starting college and voting for the first time.
COVID-19 has affected every one of those milestones. I graduated from high school in a virtual ceremony, instead of the large in-person graduation ceremony on the football field of my high school in Brooklyn Center. Although it was different than I expected, one of the things that remained was the support I received from my oldest brother, José Alonso, or just Alonso, as I call him.
My brother Alonso has been the constant through all of my milestones this year. He helped me stay on top of finishing all of my college applications and checked in constantly as I was deciding my plans for this fall. Honestly, it was kind of annoying, but I guess that’s what older brothers do.
My brother Alonso was the first person in my family to go college. I know it was important for him to help me navigate college since he never had someone to help him. It was also a lot harder for him to go to college. My brother is a DACA recipient. That’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, a program started by President Barack Obama that protects some young immigrants from being deported and allows them a work permit.
President Donald Trump has tried to end DACA protections, and even after losing at the Supreme Court, he’s still fighting to end it and deport people like my brother. Although not a citizen, my brother has lived in the U.S since he was a baby, and since my mom became a permanent resident last month — she is now a green card holder — my older brother is the only person in my family who is undocumented.
Shortly after my high school graduation I tested positive for COVID-19. I had to stay home for a few weeks, but thankfully at first I originally only experienced minimal symptoms and didn’t have to go to the hospital. A week before I was set to start college though, I ended up at a clinic with a headache and trouble breathing. I learned this was a residual symptom of COVID-19. This is worrisome for my health. But I also worry because if Trump succeeds in dismantling the Affordable Care Act, people with a COVID-19 diagnosis like me — a preexisting condition — will have a harder time getting health insurance.
Alonso called me and talked to me while I was at the clinic, making sure I had a ride home, and telling me what questions to ask the doctor. He tried to hide it, but I could tell he was worried. My brother is 12 years older, so he’s always felt like another parent.
This election is really important for me and for my brother. If Trump is re-elected, my brother, who has lived in the U.S longer than I’ve been alive, could be deported, along with hundreds of thousands of other undocumented immigrants like him.
I rely on my brother for a lot. Despite having so many family members who are U.S citizens or permanent residents, the immigration system doesn’t have a pathway to citizenship for many people like him. I’ve seen how arduous the process was for my mother to get her green card, even with my grandmother and another brother — a U.S. citizen — sponsoring her.
This is my first time voting, and all the information and misinformation out there can be overwhelming. Heck, my brother had to help me register to vote and find my polling place. During the final months of high school I had a lot of friends who didn’t even know they could vote in the primaries, and I was surprised at how little voting was talked about by teachers and faculty. A lot of my friends don’t have someone like my brother to help them navigate the process, which is another motivation of mine to vote because I have someone like him who wants to make sure my voice as a young Latino is heard.
So, with his help, I am making sure my voice is heard with my vote this year.
Trump wants to deport my brother and other undocumented people like him.
My brother can’t vote in this election. But you and I can.