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As told to Justine McDaniel
I AM a 20-year-old woman. I graduated from Santa Rosa High School, where I was junior class president and Associated Student Body president. I speak three languages. I was voted "Most Admired" in my senior class. I just completed my second year of college. I am an illegal immigrant.
I was 11 months old when my parents brought me to the United States from Mexico. My dad was an accountant in Mexico, but we starved. It's not easy to pick up and leave, but my parents were thinking about my future.
I first realized I was different in third grade during immigration raids. I thought we would be deported and I started crying in class. When my teacher asked me what was wrong, I said I didn't want my mom to get taken away. From then on, I started thinking about my future. I got obsessed with college. I felt vulnerable and powerless, but I thought being a good student would somehow help.
My parents have appealed their case for residency twice since 2007. Now it is up before the ninth circuit court of immigration appeals, and there's no way to know when our case will be heard. We have spent over $15,000. Because of the lawyer fees, we lost our house. My parents divorced after our house was foreclosed on. Most workplaces won't hire people who aren't citizens, so it is difficult for me to find a job. I'm really interested in politics, but I have to pretend that I vote. I still don't have a driver's license.
I can't apply for residency myself because to get a green card, a spouse, parent or sibling who is over 21 has to petition on your behalf. The oldest of my brothers is 16, so I will have to wait at least five years. I have so much ambition, but it is easy for it to feel squashed when I am fighting against this.
People have a lot of preconceived ideas about what illegal immigrants look like and why we're here. It's not an easy decision. People don't just wake up one morning and walk across the border. People like my family pay taxes, go to school, abide by the law and assimilate. We are assets to society. There are countless amazing people you'd never know weren't citizens. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet other students in my situation. It is inspiring to share our experiences as successful, contributing students. Yet there is no avenue for us to become part of the country that has been our home for almost our whole lives.
I don't know what the future holds, and I am still too uncertain to publish my name, but I hope this will reveal my story to those who can recognize my background.
I came here before I could talk. I took my first step in San Francisco. I was raised in America; I'm American. I just don't have a piece of paper legitimizing that identity.
I'm starting my junior year at San Francisco State next month. I'm working as a nanny and saving money. I'm a regular girl, someone you say "hi" to at school. I'm a high achiever. I'm an excellent student. I'm a hard worker. I'm a daughter and I'm a sister. I'm an illegal immigrant.
The DREAM Act, currently in Congress, would help students like the author. To help make a change, research the DREAM Act and urge your representatives to help pass it.
Send letters to the editor here.