One year after his story was told, this DACA recipient still wonders what the future holds.
A year ago, on January 25, 2017, Kathy L. Gilbert shared the story of t he Rev. Orlando Gallardo for the United Methodist News Service.
Orlando was 15 when his mother decided it was worth the risk to send her youngest child across the border of Mexico illegally to give him a chance at a better future.
“My mother always worried about me. She pushed me to get an education,” he said.
Gallardo had an older brother, a U.S. citizen through marriage, living in Iowa. He agreed to take parental rights and responsibilities for his youngest brother and filed the papers to get legal status for Gallardo.
“Just coming to the U.S. as an ordinary person is very difficult. I got denied,” he said. “My mother and brother made a decision I should just come to the U.S. without documents — that it was my best shot.”
He has a harrowing tale of his journey into the U.S., from waiting in the freezing river naked and afraid of being abandoned at one point in a hotel with strangers and no food.
“I was 15 years old; I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” he said.
Gallardo, now 33, is a graduate of Saint Paul School of Theology and associate pastor of United Methodist Trinity Community Church in Kansas City. He got a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals when President Barack Obama signed the executive order in 2012.
DACA allowed certain undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
“JFON serves hundreds of aspiring young Americans who have DACA, and we’re inspired by their stories every day. They are school teachers, students, fellow churchgoers, neighbors. This is their home. They should not have to fear losing their jobs or being deported,” said Rob Rutland-Brown, executive director of National Justice for Our Neighbors.
“Justice for Our Neighbors will continue to remind our communities and our leaders in Washington that those with DACA represent what it means to be American and deserve permanent access to the same opportunities as all Americans,” he said.
Gallardo believes his mother’s prayers got him to this point in his life. He counts it as divine intervention that he got into high school in Waterloo, Iowa, into college at the University of Northern Iowa and to Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City.
An internship at Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, ignited his call to ministry within The United Methodist Church.
He is a provisional member of the denomination and appointed to the church where he does ministry with Latino and Anglo young people. He was married July 16, 2016 to a “beautiful woman named Emily.”
If he is deported, he may be forced to leave the U.S. and go back to Mexico for as much as 10 years. He has petitioned for a waiver from that ban.
“With DACA, I was able to answer my call to ministry. I know a lot of DACA recipients that have been able to develop themselves and they are really afraid now,” he said.
A year later on February 6, 2018 Orlando reported on his Facebook page, “I am happy to announce that I have been approved to be a full ordained elder and member of the Great Plains Conference! For my friends who aren’t united Methodist, it’s a big deal.”
Earlier in a post on January 21, he spoke about the Dream Act: “I am a DACA recipient and I am not breaking any laws. They did a background check on me when I applied for DACA. If I had a criminal record, I wouldn’t have been able to obtain DACA.” Orlando called immigration reform “biblical,” citing the story of Ruth, the Moabite “coming to Israel and being used by God” and Ephesians 2:19 where, “Jesus grants citizenship to everyone.”
Reflecting on the future he added, “Since our laws and our constitution were written by wealthy white men, they have been changed and amended from the moment they had been written in order to make them more just. Today, DREAMERS simply ask for the DREAM Act to pass.”
The General Board of Church and Society is urging United Methodists to act now on behalf of Dreamers: “As the Trump administration winds down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Congress needs to act to protect the 800,000 DACA recipients and their families.”
Write to your members of Congress now. Tell them to support the DREAM Act.