Undocumented Immigrants Describe Life Under DACA, and How Games Helped Them
One day in 2008, out of the blue, Lucas Guimaraes’ father announced they were headed to the theater to see the animated kids movieMadagascar 2. Going to the theater wasn’t strange, but even at 13 years old, Lucas knew something was up when they got there 30 minutes ahead of time. But Lucas soon learned why things were off; the movie was meant to soften the blow about a secret his parents had kept for years: Lucas was undocumented.
Sitting on a bench, confused and upset, Lucas broke down crying.
“I felt like I had done something wrong,” he told me recently over email. “That the world was viewing me as a criminal. I broke into tears. I thought to myself ‘Why am I being punished for trying to live a normal life? Was I going to be sent back to Brazil? Am I not gonna be able to be somebody? Do I have anything in my life to look forward to?’ I thought about it the entire time and didn’t even care for the movie that we were watching.”
Everyone I talked to for this story had one thing in common: games. Sometimes video games, sometimes tabletop games. But what bound them together was a sense of being thrust into the shadows of society, forced to hide themselves, and finding solace, hope, and even careers in games. While they waited for the world to change, they embraced games.
Lucas, understandably, feared there was no future for him. That changed in 2012, when former President Obama used executive authority to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which provided legal protection for a narrow but sympathetic portion of undocumented immigrants. Specifically, if you met certain requirements—came to the US under the age of 16; were younger than 31 years old, as of June 15, 2012; lived in the US since 2007—you could be granted a two-year grace period from immigration action. It meant you could safely apply for a job, go to college—all things Lucas figured had been taken away, thanks to a secret his parents had kept from him.