Tuesday was hard for Evelin Salgado’s students. She teaches at Cane Ridge High School in Antioch, and many of the seats in her classroom are occupied by DREAMers. They are able to drive, work and enroll in college, thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that the Trump administration now plans to phase out.
It was a tough day for Salgado too — not just from consoling her students, but because she's a DACA recipient herself.
Salgado was able to apply for DACA protection her senior year at Overton High School. She had arrived in the United States from Mexico when she was 10 years old. After graduating from college in Kentucky, the 23-year-old is back in Nashville, working in the same school district where she grew up.
“I’m able to understand the struggles of a lot of my students,” she says.
Salgado has spent two years teaching Spanish to many native speakers like herself. But only in the last few weeks has she been public about her immigration status. She says the bond with her students has deepened. Some have approached her after class and told her they look up to her and that she gives them hope.
“They need to see someone who is strong, someone who is willing to fight for them when maybe they don’t have the voice that I’m able to have."
"Our dreams cannot be left behind. Our futures cannot wait" @MetroSchools teacher & DACA recipient calling on congress to support #DreamAct pic.twitter.com/eJApQk2Nyi— TIRRC (@tnimmigrant) September 5, 2017
She shares some of their emotions. She remembers a time without DACA, growing up in the shadows.
“You don’t know what it’s like to live in fear of being deported and being sent to a country where you don’t know," Salgado says. "I’m not afraid of fighting. I will keep fighting."
It’s not just her classroom that Salgado’s shouldering — in many ways, she is the pillar holding up her entire family. She is the sole college graduate and the only one with a driver’s license who can work a legal job.
“I’m afraid of being deported. I can’t imagine my life elsewhere," she says. "President Trump ending DACA is like throwing us into a deportation pipeline, putting an expiration date on our future."
Salgado weights this potential future against her desire to speak out. But she’s willing to take a chance, even if it means risking a job that she loves.
Though Metro schools has publicly expressed support for DACA students, the district has so far remained mum on what will happen to its staff.