On Monday evenings, you can find 24-year-old Mariana Martinez baking banana bread for her mom, dad, and older sister Adriana. The culinary student loves whipping up desserts.
After dinner, she and her family usually relax on the couch of their Miami home and watch The Voice together. They laugh at how the show’s judges bicker with one another.
Behind the family’s smiling faces, however, there’s a sea of anxiety churning. With Donald Trump poised to become president of the United States on January 20, Martinez says her family's future is uncertain.
She is worried that, under his new administration, she or one of her loved ones may soon be deported to Venezuela, her birthplace and the country she has heard stories about.
“I came [to the United States] when I was 9 years old,” Martinez said. “My sister and I thought we were going to Disney.”
Though her family did not end up going to the Most Magical Place on Earth, once in Florida they did end up overstaying their visas in the Magic City, ultimately becoming undocumented.
Though some Americans call her an “illegal,” she believes many nativists in the U.S. don’t understand what it is like to migrate to a new country when the political system in their homeland has run amok.
It was not just the diminished socioeconomic opportunities in Venezuela that led her Catholic family to overstay, Martinez says, but also the erosion of human rights in the so-called Land of Grace.
After living for 15 years in Florida, Miami is her home. It’s the place where she went to elementary, middle, and high school. It’s also the city where she is studying to be a chef, though she has taken time off from school due to financial hardship.
With Inauguration Day looming ever nearer, Martinez fears all her dreams and academic work, along with her family’s efforts to acculturate in the U.S., are now at risk of being unraveled with the stroke of a pen by Donald Trump.
In the uncertainty of what awaits her family, she leans on her sister for comfort.
Trump’s campaign says the New York billionaire will stand by his promise to terminate DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, when he enters the Oval Office. This is the policy President Obama set forth in 2012 to help individuals like Martinez who came to the U.S. as a kid. DACA allows them to gain employment and have their possible deportations postponed.
Martinez, who tells New Times she has never been in trouble with authorities, hopes Trump's administration will not deport law-abiding undocumented Millennials like herself, especially since she calls the U.S. her home, pays taxes, and spends her hard-earned money here.
“We cannot be in a place where we do not feel safe,” Martinez said regarding the possibility of being sent back to Venezuela, “a place where you manifest your feelings and thoughts in peace but are received with violence.”
Martinez, who has protested immigration policies in the U.S., fears her penchant for activism will lead to her harm in the Land of Grace. According to Human Rights Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, government officials in Venezuela do intimidate and prosecute their critics, leaving many Venezuelans silenced.
On top of peaceful protests being met with force, Amnesty International also says that many Venezuelans go without basic medicines, and food shortages are common.
“There is no food for people to eat,” Martinez said, before mentioning that she was recently promoted to a managerial position at a local Venezuelan restaurant.
With these hardships abroad possibly awaiting her, she continues to hope, amid a hostile climate toward "illegals," that Trump, as top cop, will not send her away to a place that is quite alien to her.
Though not Disney itself, Martinez believes the U.S. is still a magical place; it's her home.
“I feel like I have a better chance at achieving my dreams here,” she said. “And I know that I am also helping the U.S. by being here.”
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Currently, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is preparing a bill that would protect individuals like Martinez, who willingly went through background checks and provided personal information to government officials when they applied for DACA.
Graham believes they should be given credit for "coming out of the shadows" should there be a witch-hunt in the future.
UPDATE: Martinez said she had to wait for her parents to become citizens before beginning the process of trying to become one herself. Since they recently have, her family is now looking for an immigration lawyer for her.