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Attending the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
My dad was just doing what any human being would do when he came here from Mexico when he was 16: He came here to survive. Where he was living, there was extreme poverty, so he risked everything to come to the U.S. and work here so he could provide a better life for his brothers and sisters and his parents.
This was in the early 1980s, in the times when he could go back and forth. He met my mom, and when they had my older sister and me, it really didn't cross his mind to bring us to the United States. It's a very risky journey, but times were getting rougher in Mexico and everything was getting more expensive. They just couldn't do it anymore, so he decided to bring us here. I came when I was 5 years old.
In high school, I was really involved. I was president of some clubs and I was very active in my church in Waldron. I didn't really realize I was undocumented until I was in high school. I'm sure this happens to a lot of us. We don't think about it when we're in middle school or elementary school. In high school, things get serious. I remember the first time I tried to take the ACT when I was a sophomore, I was registering online and it asked for my Social Security number. I knew what a Social Security number was, and I was sure that I didn't have one. I knew that you had to be born here. I had to register for the test the old fashioned way, through the mail.
That's when I started looking into more of what being undocumented was really about. I knew my parents had always had the fear of getting stopped by the police because they didn't have driver's licenses, but that's when I realized it: My parents are undocumented, and I am undocumented.
Somehow, I always thought that because I knew English and I was a good student, nothing was going to harm me. Nothing was going to stop me from reaching my dreams. That belief, in my mind and heart, was kind of like my protection. I thought nothing could stop me. I love this country and I've done so many things. I feel American.
After that, I felt fear. I felt scared. I thought: I still have a good bit of high school left, and I hope something will be done for people like me, but my world just started crumbling. I knew the only way to succeed in this country was through education, and I went into a sort of depression. It just felt like there was no hope for me. There were several moments during my high school career that I wanted to give up, when I was seriously thinking about it. Not dropping out of high school, but seriously thinking about not going to college and just starting to work. I thought college would be out of my hands because my parents can't pay for it and I can't get loans.
It was very frustrating not knowing what to do or where to go to. I knew people who just gave up, because it was too hard. But something inside me told me: You can't give up. Not now. There might be something in the future for you.
I was friends with Lidia Mondragon in school, and she was really my inspiration to keep going. I knew she was determined to go to college, and I saw her as a role model. I could be doing the same thing. When I was a junior in high school, she was already in college. That's when I first realized: You can do this. This is possible. This isn't something that only happens in California or Texas. I learned about scholarships that didn't require a Social Security number and I applied like crazy.
When I heard about Deferred Action, I just couldn't believe it. My parents called me. They were so excited. It's that glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. I immediately got to filling out the documentation. I applied in October, and finally got my work permit and everything else in December. It was like a breath of relief holding that card that gave me some kind of status here in the United States so I could work. Even the right to work makes all the difference in the world. To be holding that card and knowing that I could go to any employer and not have fear, it was a great feeling. But at the same time, I knew that my parents couldn't file for Deferred Action. It was another one of those bittersweet moments: So, I'm good, but what about my parents — the ones who have sacrificed everything to bring me here? It gives me the motivation to keep fighting. I'm not afraid anymore.