Maite D, 27, North Carolina, Born in Mexico
I think of myself as an American because I’ve lived in the U.S. since I was 12. This is the home my parents sacrificed everything to provide for me. I graduated high school and earned my CNA (certified nursing assistant) in college. And now I’m saving to finish university as a registered nurse. There is no in-state tuition available to me nor do I qualify for financial assistance, even though I’ve successfully applied for DACA and lived in North Carolina for 15 years.
Fortunately, I’m now able to work at my profession in a nonprofit clinic. Before DACA, I worked in restaurants putting in long hours for little pay. At the clinic, I help others get some much needed healthcare, mostly Hispanics, who would qualify for the extended Medicaid benefits under Obamacare but our governor has refused to participate in this program.
I know firsthand what deferred dreams look like and I’m saddened by all the wasted potential because the loss doesn’t just hurt those who suffer but it has a negative impact on the entire country. I could become a registered nurse very quickly but tuition costs hold me back. I’m saving every penny I can, but I’m getting older and time is precious to me. As far back as high school, I tried to get help from the career counselor but she wouldn’t make time for me because she thought I had no future. I’m proving her wrong every day.
My mother had a very long, hard journey getting here. She knew no one and slept in the park for many nights. She wanted me to have a better life and she found a way to get on her feet and come back to get me in Mexico where I was living with my grandmother. Once reunited, we flew in together under false papers. My parents and I continue to work hard and hope for change in the immigration laws. The rest of our family lives in Mexico and my grandparents died there without our being able to attend the funeral. Under DACA, I was able to visit once recently after 15 years. The sacrifices made to attain the American Dream sometimes seem not really worth it, since the dream is so elusive and the anti-immigrant sentiment is disheartening.
Growing up in a small community in the South, I was told not to speak Spanish with a classmate because I was in America. It was a moment of being called out and shamed. Now my bilingual skills serve me well in my profession. It’s an asset, not something to hide or be ashamed of. I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve become.
I really want people to see me for who I am. Yes, I’m one of the 11-million Undocumented, but I’m so much more. I am an American. I grew up here with my family. I work here and serve the community. I have a skill that the nation needs. I’m a Christian and a good, law-abiding person. I should have equal rights and equal opportunity. America needs citizens like me.