Salsa Star Luis Enrique Addresses DACA: 'Don't Ever Stop Dreaming'

Luis Enrique
Courtesy of Chazz Music  

Luis Enrique

"Those who aren’t immigrants don’t know what it means to wake up every day in uncertainty."

In his new memoir, Autobiografía (Harper Collins), salsa star Luis Enrique narrates his journey from illegal immigrant to music superstar with three top 10 albums on the Top Latin Albums chart and nine top 10 hits on Hot Latin Songs to his name. 

Release of the book has coincided with the ongoing conversation over the government’s repeal of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

In an essay penned exclusively for Billboard, Luis Enrique discusses his personal experience as an undocumented teenager and his thoughts on the repeal of DACA. 

Nearly 40 years ago, I arrived in this country, never imagining that my family’s decision to send me out of Nicaragua would bring so much to my life. 

Hard times, uncertainty, loneliness, a completely unknown culture for me, they became the motor that fueled my desire to get ahead in this country where opportunities flirted with me, but I couldn’t make them mine because I was undocumented. It was a frustrating situation, particularly when I saw that others misused the very opportunities I didn’t have. 

I never lost faith. I knew this nation was fertile territory and that I would become someone, with or without papers. Ten years went by. Ten. Until president Reagan created an amnesty program for those of us who arrived before the 1980s. Through that program many of us were able to become legal residents. 

From that point forward, everything changed. I remember I was about to sign my first record deal, every artist’s holy grail and for me, the light at the end of the tunnel. 

I write this because DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has been terminated by president Trump. Really? What happened to the land of opportunity, the American dream? 

Some 680,000 people will be affected by a decision, that, many think is an inhumane act, considering the majority of these young people don’t know any other country beyond the United States, nor speak another language beside English. 

Since president Obama created DACA in 2012, 20% of these young people have been able to buy a home. They have adopted this country like their own. They’re an example of tenacity and have enormous desire to positively impact their community and their country. 

Back in 1981, when I graduated from high school, how I yearned for an initiative like DACA that would have allowed me to go to college. My dream was to become a music teacher for special needs children. 

Those who aren’t immigrants don’t know what it means to wake up every day in uncertainty. It’s something I don’t wish on anyone. 

The ability to impact citizens in a positive way should be the priority of those who govern. President Trump’s decision has a political end, where he’s negotiating with the future of thousands of Hispanic brothers and sisters to further the goals of his government plan. What many may not know is that the Dreamers made an investment in order to obtain that renewable work permit, provided they followed certain conditions, every two years. 

Each one paid $495. To take away something that’s been paid for is stealing. In this case, they are stealing the expectations, goals and dreams of more than half a million young people. 

The notion that many undocumented people come to this country to take away work and opportunities away from legal residents is simply an excuse to attack a group of people whose only wish is to improve their quality of life. 

Today, it feels like time hasn’t gone by, and that everything that’s been done to end discrimination against immigrants has been for naught. 

What I find particularly outraging and lacking in solidarity is to read so many comments on social media by Hispanics themselves against DACA. Whether they came here illegally or not is beside the point. It’s Hispanic against Hispanic. And the notion that those who come are stealing jobs away is also trite and false. It’s vulgar to take advantage of this moment in time to create more confusion rather than support positive changes for those of us who come in search of the American Dream. 

Wake up people!!! Having your papers doesn’t make you a better person. 

But, this also wakes me up and makes me think there is still a lot to do. As a community, we must take a stronger stance against injustice. 

I have faith that the fight for those who respect life and the future of these young people will not be in vain. My embrace of solidarity goes out to them and with them, along with that of many others who wish for a fair ending to this assault against the dignity of our brothers. 


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