This is one in a series of posts on individual Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as young children, many of whom are under threat of deportation following the Trump administration’s decision in September 2017 to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA.
Although he was scared to be graduating from Colorado State University (CSU) without a job waiting for him, Brayan Montes-Terrazas steeled himself with thoughts of his mother and father. They came to this country when they were his age, with two children and only four dollars to their names.
Montes-Terrazas had recently returned from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans where he worked at an urban farm to help build leadership skills for youth. Seeing the continuing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina also helped put his fear into perspective.
While Montes-Terrazas is graduating with a degree in marketing this spring, he’s leaving with much more than a degree.
After the 2016 election, the status of Dreamers in the United States was thrown into limbo. Montes-Terrazas soon stood up and became the voice for fellow DACA students on campus as the president of Dreamers United at CSU. In that role, he advised CSU President Tony Frank as well as then-U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, now governor of Colorado, on matters regarding DACA students.
Taking a full load of classes, working 20 hours a week, freelancing as a graphic artist, being a member of two fraternities, as well as being president of Dreamers United was stressful and took a toll on his health, Montes-Terrazas said.
“When you’re the leader of a group that is so politicized, you have to stay strong,” he said. “You have to go into every meeting knowing that you’re doing it all for a greater cause. I would think to myself – I’m doing this for the closeted Dreamer who is afraid to tell anyone, who’s afraid of what people are going to think.”
Under his leadership, Dreamers United membership grew from five people to 50. The group also created a fund to help Dreamers during emergencies and hired a counselor to help Dreamers and other students of color.
While his future may seem uncertain, Montes-Terrazas does not doubt his own capabilities.
“I’m a self-motivator and I don’t think I would be a self-motivator if I hadn’t gone through the things I had gone through in college,” he said. “Everything comes from inside and this fire and drive to do it.”