Living with DACA

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“All that’s left is the credit check, and we’re all set.”

This statement haunted my family and I more than anything during our search for a new home.

Before the existence of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, no working adult in my household had a valid Social Security number to their name. So, we never had the opportunity to build our credit.

I grew up in a pink two-bedroom apartment in North Hollywood that my dad had acquired for our family when I was six. I never imagined we would move after living there for 16 years.

But there came the time when we were all forced to relocate. It was strange to think of ourselves in a new city, but it was also exciting to have the possibility of finding a larger home. The North Hollywood two-bedroom apartment had begun to feel too cramped for four adults and one minor.

When I was young, sharing my room with my siblings was fun. We could split the chore of cleaning it up. We could play and keep each other company. But as I grew older, I felt as though my privacy was nonexistent and the walls were beginning to cave in.

Relocation was our opportunity to find something more spacious. This thought was freeing. I knew that because none of us had a valid Social Security number or credit, buying a home would not be an option for our family.

Regardless, the idea of moving to a three-bedroom apartment seemed just as exciting as purchasing a home. But my main concern was finding one that we could afford.

Friends and family were quick to recommend many places. My parents didn’t have the time or resources to be looking for a new home. It was up to me and my sister to follow all leads. We took on this task enthusiastically.

I quickly discovered that the real challenge was not finding a place with affordable rent, but finding an agency that would allow us to have an apartment despite our legal status.

On our first try, we were immediately impressed. The manager had been kind and walked us through the condo-style apartment: two floors, three bedrooms and a small patio. It was recently remodeled and situated in a safe residential neighborhood. And the best part was that it was within our budget.

As my sister and I walked through with gleaming eyes and high spirits, the manager interrupted our happiness when she began to explain that along with proof of employment (which we could provide), all adults that wanted to live in the residence had to submit a credit check. She handed us the forms and sent us on our way to gather the necessary information and signatures.

The sections that indicated where the Social Security numbers and signatures had to filled in were marked in bright yellow –– highlighting our inability to provide valid information because of our legal status.

Days later, we returned nervously to turn in the paperwork with false information, risking it all for the opportunity of a better home. In less than a week, we received the rejection phone call.

This became a pattern during our search for a new home. Progressively we lowered our expectations and standards. Moving out wasn’t so exciting anymore — just stressful and discouraging.

Eventually we found a new home, but it was far from our original goal. The overall quality was poor, the space was small and the management inattentive. The deciding factor was that we qualified so we just signed the lease without thinking twice.

The next time I would find a new home would be in fall 2016, when I was moving to Berkeley. This time around, thanks to DACA, I wouldn’t experience the obstacle of lacking a social security.

My roommate and I set out to look for off-campus housing. Throughout our search, we ran into many obstacles, but these mainly consisted of pricing, neighborhood safety or apartment quality.

And yet, the first two times that we filled out a credit report check form, the memories of my past experience haunted me. I felt anxious when I saw the highlighted portions, momentarily forgetting that, thanks to DACA, I now had a valid Social Security number.

When our application was rejected the first couple of times, I couldn’t help but wonder if something was wrong with my information. I just had to consciously reassure myself that I was now legally eligible for housing — only time can condition me to accept this fact.

So in September 2016, I sat confidently across the desk from the manager as I filled out the Social Security section, knowing that I wouldn’t be rejected for lacking those nine numbers.

After relentlessly searching for three months, my roommate and I found a spacious apartment. This residence offered the privacy that I yearned for all my adult life and a place that I could call home for my years at UC Berkeley.

 

Gladys Torres Avalos writes the Monday column on being a DACA recipient. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @gtorres_avalos.