New York-based filmmaker Jorge Corona arrived in Texas when he was in middle school and stayed through his college years. He considers himself “a product of Texas.”
But those formative years were also a time spent living what he calls a “double experience.” Corona was living as an undocumented person, after his family overstayed a traveler’s visa.
“Yes, I’m from Texas. Yes, I grew up there,” Corona said. “Yes I, you know, can make my way through San Antonio and Austin pretty easily. But I also have this other perspective of quite simply, having had these barriers that perhaps not all Texans have. Perhaps? For sure they don’t have them.”
After years of living with that status, Corona’s life took a new direction when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was introduced by the Obama administration in 2012. For the first time, he was able to pursue things that otherwise would have been closed off to him, like getting a driver’s license or applying for paid internships.
“To be able to do things like not worry about being deported every single day – it’s not like a constant worry at the front of your mind, but it’s in the back somewhere and it does take a toll on you,” Corona said. “So this order really helped establish folks like me into society. It gave us a little bit of a way forward, a renewable way forward, because you have to renew this permit every two years and pay a few hundred dollars in order to do it. But yeah, it did change the course of my life.”
After falling in love and getting married in 2017, Corona became a permanent resident and is now a citizen. But while his legal status has changed, Corona says the experience of living undocumented in the U.S. is one that sticks with him.
“Everybody who grows up without something knows what it’s like to not have that something,” Corona said. “It shapes you in such a deep way. It shapes your behavior. It shapes the way you see the world. And so that’s sort of the crux of my being.”
Since its implementation, the DACA program has faced many challenges. And while he is now a permanent resident, Corona has not forgotten what the program has meant to him. Because of this, he continues to speak out when DACA comes under attack.
“I may not be beholden to the program in the same way that other people are, but, you know, there is no way that you don’t support that,” Corona said. “I’m not willing to let that part of myself go in order to further blend in. That’s not where my values are with being with everybody else who’s going through a struggle that’s in any way similar to it.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Corona’s current status. He is a citizen.