It’s been a tumultuous year for Vincent Ronquillo, 33. For the last five years, Ronquillo, like 800,000 other previously undocumented immigrants, has been protected from deportation thanks to the Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. But in September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the program—exactly what Ronquillo was afraid would happen when Trump took office.
Finding a permanent replacement for DACA has been a hotly contested political issue ever since. President Trump gave Congress until March 2018 to come up with a solution. But sensing that passing a standalone bill by then was unlikely, Democrats have been threatening to hold the federal budget bill hostage unless provisions for DACA are included. The budget needs to pass by the end of this week in order to avoid a partial government shutdown. (Trump has invited congressional leaders to the White House on Thursday to hammer out a plan.)
Ronquillo is watching closely. I first met him while covering a protest in November 2016. He has lived in California since he was 7 years old, balancing work, family, and the strains of being in legal limbo. I wanted to know what it’s like to live like this, so we’ve kept in closer touch over the last few months through in-person interviews, home videos, and emailed voice-memos.
What does he think of the continued squabbles over his right to call himself an American? “They’re playing with our lives,” he says. As I listened to him drop references to Power Rangers, Thanksgiving, and his small business, Vincent’s life struck me as routinely American—with the notable exception that it all might be ripped out from under him.
For the full experience, head over to Mother Jones on Instagram, and keep following to see how things progress for Ronquillo as the deadline for Congress to decide his fate approaches.