Erick T, 27, Los Angeles, Born in Mexico City
I’m starting my second semester of law school after growing up thinking that I should limit my expectations because of poverty and few professional role models. But my parents had faith in me and encouraged me to work toward a better future.
If my parents could come to the States knowing no one and struggle as they did, even sleeping in their car, then I could push myself to make something of the opportunities they had provided. My mom brought me to this country 24 years ago as a toddler. My father had come earlier to find work. Fortunately, we come from a family of immigrants. My Russian grandfather was a World War II refugee who made a new life for himself in Mexico. Decades later, it was our turn to start over.
I really never knew I was undocumented until high school when identification is required for work, driving and financial aid for college. Without the proper papers, I felt my world close in and thought my future was limited. But my mom and dad kept pushing me to aim higher. I enrolled in community college and studied business administration. It was here I saw possibilities. It was here I became ambitious. My sweetheart, whom I met right after high school, joined me in college and we kept each other going, marrying in our third year at Santa Monica College. It took me four years to get through community college because I had to work. I was finally able to transfer to Cal State L.A. My wife and I had done it together.
We fought for passage of the failed Dream Act and I took advantage of DACA when President Obama signed his executive order. So I can live with less fear and more hope. My wife is a U.S. citizen and she has petitioned for residency for me.
After college, I worked for two years in real estate improving my LSAT scores and saving money for law school. I now attend Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and hope to focus my practice on environmental law. My wife has her business degree and works in administration at one of L.A.’s leading hospitals.
I now have a goal in sight and have worked long and hard to get where I am. I know there is much more to do, and though I may not be the brightest, I’m the most tenacious. I’m not giving up on my dream, a dream I didn’t dare embrace at first. My parents taught me to believe in myself and I’ve been helped by others along the way. I feel it’s my responsibility to give back whenever I can as a way of showing my appreciation for those who encouraged me. I also hope my story inspires those who contemplate giving up.
I consider myself an American because I admire and hold dear the philosophies of this nation, the opportunities to realize our dreams, to work hard and achieve our full potential. I have earned my citizenship by appreciating and building on the nation’s highest ideals.