Elizabeth Lavin

Immigration

The Now-Legal Immigrant

Thanks to their deferred action status, Jesus Castillo Carrizales and other childhood arrivals can start putting down real roots in Dallas.

As the man walked by, Jesus Castillo Carrizales hid in the tall grass, playing a game with his mother. She laid out only one rule: just be quiet. The 6-year-old watched the green uniform and shiny badge glide by, pausing but never approaching, and he tried his best to win the game.

“I didn’t know it was Immigration,” he says now. “It was me and a bunch of others. Back then, I was a kid. I thought it was just fun and games.”

Carrizales is a soft-spoken, bright 24-year-old who just happens to have crossed into the United States illegally. In November, he became one of 83,000 people living in Texas to receive deferred action for childhood arrivals from the U.S. government, meaning that—barring criminal convictions and unlawful travel—he’s allowed to stay in the country in perpetuity.

A 2008 Thomas Jefferson High School graduate, Carrizales dreamed of medical school. But his senior year, as he began applying to colleges and for loans, he ran up against a barrier: he didn’t have a Social Security number.

“I had to settle for construction jobs or temp jobs, things I didn’t like to do,” he says. “I told myself that I studied hard and I went to school, and that I was going to get something that I liked to do. It wasn’t like that at all.”

Carrizales eventually found his way to the Human Rights Initiative, which helped him with his deferred action paperwork. Now he works at a mill in Keyes, Okalahoma, shuttling between there and his wife’s parents’ house in Dallas, hundreds of miles north of where he crossed the border, outside Laredo.

Sitting in a Starbucks in North Dallas, he scrolls through his phone’s photo gallery and flashes a photo of his wife and son.

“[Deferred action] means a better life for them,” he says. “We used to worry about bills. We used to worry about gas money. It’s not like that anymore. I can take my family out and actually provide.”

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