¡Mi travesía hasta Wisconsin!


GILBERTO by Gary Porter for WI Immigrant Journeys

I am a Dreamer – my status right now is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. I was very young when my family came from Mexico. DACA gives you temporary protection from deportation.

Now I am a full-time student at UW-Madison. On top of that, I work in the All of Us initiative at UW Medical School. I also work in a lab at school, and then I work at Centro Hispano in youth mentoring. A lot of people ask why I do that many jobs. I’m like, “Why do you think?” I can’t afford tuition on my own. I am not eligible for assistance. On top of that, in Wisconsin, people without legal residency pay out-of-state tuition. I realize I have to work 10 times harder to get to where I want to be. The only reason I am attending university is because of the Latino community. I received a scholarship from Centro Hispano, and I’ve won several other scholarships.

One day, I plan to go to medical school. I plan to bring that perspective of community support to public health care. Undocumented people struggle to have access to health care. They need help.

My dad was a dentist in Mexico. Now he works in the custodial department at UW-Madison. My mother worked in a bank. Now she has a hair salon in our home. I have three brothers. My dad always says they came here for us, and he’s not going back until we realize our dreams.


More Information

The term “DREAMer” refers to those who would be protected under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), a bill in Congress that has been proposed in order to provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children. It has been proposed numerous times over sixteen years but has never passed to become law. The first version was introduced in 2001 and young undocumented immigrants have since been called DREAMers.

That demographic, the DREAMers, gained protection under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order in 2012.  The program to protect youth from deportation was ended by President Trump in 2017. Several lawsuits have been filed and it is unclear what future court rulings will mean for DACA.

Currently, anyone who has ever had DACA status can apply to renew, though the U.S. government is not accepting any new applications. Additionally, those who currently have DACA are not guaranteed reentry if they leave the country.

Recipients may become eligible for a work permit, social security number and driver’s license. However, the program does not provide permanent lawful status or a path to citizenship, nor does it provide eligibility for federal welfare or student aid.

Most of the people protected by DACA were born in Mexico (558,050), El Salvador (26,520), Guatemala (18,140) or Honduras (16,660). There are 7,070 active DACA recipients residing in Wisconsin as of August 2018.

Immigrants come to Wisconsin from all over the world for different reasons and bring with them a wide range of education and experiences. Today, over 280,000 of Wisconsin’s 5.84 million residents are immigrants. They have come here from more than 113 different countries and are employed in many job sectors in the state.

Nearly 3 out of 10 adult immigrants who have settled in Wisconsin have a college degree or more, a proportion similar to that of native-born Wisconsinites. On the other hand, immigrants are more likely than the U.S. born population to have less than a high school diploma (25% vs 7%).

In total, immigrants account for about 6% of the labor force in Wisconsin. They often work in jobs where there is a growing need for workers, including in manufacturing and agriculture. As of 2015, 7.2% of the manufacturing workforce and 11.2% of ‘Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting’ workforce was immigrants.



Latinos are three times more likely to be uninsured than any racial or ethnic group in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reported that 81% of Latinos in Wisconsin between ages 18 and 64 do not have insurance for any number of reasons, including employment that doesn’t offer insurance and citizenship status.

Undocumented immigrants and their foreign-born children are not eligible for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. Those who are college students may be able to get insurance through a student health plan. Health resources available to undocumented immigrants include community health clinics, free medical and dental school clinics, and hospital emergency rooms.