Elias Rosenfeld, DACA recipient, Immigration advocate and Brandeis Alum

March 19, 2021

Elias Rosenfeld ’20 immigrated to the United States from Caracas, Venezuela at the age of six. According to Rosenfeld, his mother decided to make this move due to the rise in antisemitism in Caracas. “Members of the synagogues were being kidnapped leaving bar mitzvahs or weddings, and swastikas were being drawn on cinema doors,” said Rosenfeld in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. Rosenfeld, his mother and sister came to the states on an L1 Visa and were on the pathway to citizenship. 

However, when he was 12, his mother passed away from kidney cancer. “What this meant was I fell out of status,” he explained. He recalled finding out that his Visa status had changed when he attempted to apply for a learner’s permit in eighth grade. He was unable to fill out the application because he had no social security number to enter. Rosenfeld describes this particular experience as “the experience that launched me into advocacy.”

One of his initial experiences with advocacy was with the gang of eight immigration battle in the Senate in 2012, where he was one of the youngest “dreamers” to be involved. In 2012, former President Barack Obama began the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed DACA recipients, or “dreamers,” to legally obtain a social security card. 

Rosenfeld graduated high school and received a full merit scholarship at Brandeis University. He went on to help pass a law to improve healthcare access for immigrant children in Florida. In the past few years, Elias took on the role of a full-time immigration advocate. Through his work, Rosenfeld would travel to Washington D.C. three to four times a week from Boston and met with over 300 members of Congress, he told The Hoot. For him, being an immigration advocate began as “a matter of life and circumstance,” rather than an active choice.

“When my Grandfather, who was like a father figure to me, passed away unexpectedly, I was unable to be by his side,” Rosenfeld explained. For him, the termination of the DACA program meant that he could only watch his Grandfather’s funeral on Whatsapp. This moment for him highlighted “how personal the last four years have been.”  

During the course of the previous presidential administration, Rosenfeld was afraid to leave his apartment on weekends and checked his immigration status for changes on a daily basis to see if it had changed. Rosenfeld expressed that the recent presidential election was an emotional one, but that his feelings were mixed. Rosenfeld said that the new administration is “actively fighting in Congress for policies that will protect people like myself.” However, he also expressed a belief that the work regarding immigration is far from over.

When asked about his hopes for the future of immigration in the US, Rosenfeld said that he has two main goals. First, he hopes that the administration will be able to implement long term humane border and immigration policies.  Second, Elias said “Ideally I would like to see all 10 million undocumented immigrants have the dignity and respect that is afforded through permanent protection.”

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