Building a family’s future

Martin M.


Martin was only eight years old when he crossed the border from Mexico to the United States with his mother, his uncle, and his infant sister. After reuniting with his father in Tennessee, the family settled in Fort Atkinson when Martin was in sixth grade.

“I consider Fort Atkinson to be my hometown,” he said. “It’s where I grew up, and it’s where I met my best friends. It’s where I became an ‘American,’ I like to say.” Martin used air quotes because he actually isn’t an American citizen. He’s a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) registrant, which means he can legally remain in the United States if he maintains a clean record and pays a $500 fee every two years to maintain his status.

While DACA allows Martin to live here legally, it also forces him into an “in-between” existence. He went to Blackhawk Tech to pursue a career as a lineman, but he can’t get a Commercial Driver’s License because DACA registrants are considered temporary residents. For now he works as a troubleshooter for Charter Spectrum.

His classification as a temporary resident also means that he can’t marry his life partner, who also holds DACA status, and with whom he has two daughters, a five-year-old and a baby who was born in April. “Technically we can get married, but if we did we couldn’t be sponsored to eventually get our citizenship,” he said.

Although the government considers him to be a temporary resident, Martin has lived in Fort Atkinson for most of his life and he’s doing his best to build a secure future for himself and his family here. “I want to have a family, and work, and enjoy life,” he said. “That’s the American Dream.”

This portrait and story are part of "A Place to Call Home," a special exhibition by writer and photographer Lori Compas at the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.