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After Saving Lives in Houston, This DREAMer Paramedic Faces Fear of Deportation

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Brought to you by the editors of People en Español.

Jesus Contreras worked non-stop for six days rescuing the victims of Hurricane Harvey, which flooded Houston in August.

Unable to get to his home that he shares with his mother, who brought him to the United States at the age of 6, the paramedic camped at a fire station and devoted himself to helping those affected by the natural disaster, which took the lives of 82 people.

When Contreras was finally able to return home in the Spring district north of Houston, he received another hard blow: President Donald Trump had announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

DACA had allowed the 23-year-old undocumented Mexican to live his life freely in the United States and fulfill his dream of getting an education and working in emergency medical services.

Jesus Contreras
Erin Patrice O’Brien

“We’re not rapists. We’re not bad people. We’re here as citizens just like every other child, to give back to the community and to give back to the country,” Contreras said. “If I were to go back to Mexico, I’d be completely lost. I wouldn’t know where to apply for a job, where to live [or] who to live with. It’s a foreign country to me although I am proud to be Mexican.”

Contreras is now one of the DREAMers gracing the cover of the November issue of People en Español.

Erin Patrice O’Brien for People en Español

“Instead of being sad and angry, and against the president, I got to work. I am very grateful to have the opportunities I have and I am happy to be here,” Contreras, whose compelling story garnered a flurry of media attention in September, said.

Together with four other prominent DREAMers, the brave paramedic spoke to the magazine about the future of DACA and the fear that thousands of immigrants now have of being deported to their home countries.

In 2012, President Barack Obama signed DACA into law by executive order to give legal shelter to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors in the face of Congressional refusal to approve the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, the bill that would permit them legal residence.

Jesus Conteras
Contreras is an only child. Pictured here next to his mother.
Courtesy of Jesus Conteras

“Our president brags, mostly on Twitter, his favorite communication platform:  ‘America is for Americans,’ Armando Correa, the editor in chief of People en Español’s, wrote in a recent column:  “Mr. President, DREAMers are Americans, just like your children and grandchildren. They don’t need a piece of paper to be patriotic.”

With their future in the air, nearly 800,000 DREAMers are still awaiting their fate from the United States Congress, which decides the future of the program.

“Texas is my home,” Contreras said in response to the possibility of being sent to Mexico. His commitment to Texas and America is reinforced by a tattoo displayed on his arm that reads “The Lone Star State.” He will not waver in his conviction that he belongs here, and he’s steady in the hope that Washington D.C. will agree: “I am helping people,” he said, “and I believe that the citizens of this country, the President and Congress will work with us.”

Translation by Thatiana Diaz