Making History / Stories / Uncertainty

Cesar V.

Cesar V., 32, New York, Born in Puebla, Mexico

cesarvargaspix1Whenever possible, I take the Staten Island ferry across Hudson Bay, so I can admire the majestic Statute of Liberty – reliving that moment shared by so many immigrants. The Lady with Light symbolizes my mother’s American Dream of seeing her son become a lawyer, a dream she has nurtured since she brought me to the States when I was five. After my father passed away, my mom was determined to reunite all her children in one place and to provide them every opportunity.

Though I was born in Mexico, my spirit lives in America. New York is my home and I’m proud of my New York accent. I’m a beneficiary of the New York City public school system, in fact a graduate of the same high school as New York Senator Chuck Schumer and 2016 Democrat presidential candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

I’m living my mom’s dream. It is now my dream. I graduated from Saint Francis College and the City University of New York School of Law. As if all this wasn’t hard enough, I had to find a way, as an Undocumented American, to be admitted to the New York Bar. A New York appellate court approved my application to practice law in the state after it had initially been denied due to my immigration status. On June 3, 2015 the court found that immigration status alone does not disqualify someone from being admitted to the New York bar. This was an historic decision because it validated the American Dream that regardless of where you come from, you can work hard and reach your potential. Now my mom will be able to see me sworn in as a licensed New York attorney.

Over the past few years, I learned that while I must have a license to practice law, I don’t need one to serve my community and country. I have openly affirmed my status as an Undocumented American and joined a movement comprised of amazing undocumented Dreamers like me, brought to the States as children. Together we’re fighting for immigration reform in Washington. For our efforts, we have seen President Obama issue two meaningful executive orders calling for deportation relief: DACA and DAPA. I have taken advantage of DACA and hope my 70-year old mother will receive the benefits of DAPA if it can get through the courts.

When I first started working for immigration reform in 2010, pushing for the passage of the Dream Act, I helped launch the consulting and advocacy firm DRM Capitol Group, now known as the Dream Action coalition, which lobbies to pass immigration initiatives on the federal and state levels.

Immigration is a window into the heart of America. The window has opened just enough to give hope for five million of us to apply for deferred action, but we have to push the window wide open. We must work for immigration reform, for a way to keep families together and for all of us to be afforded a path to citizenship. We must not give up. We must prevail because we’re fighting for the most basic of human rights – to live with dignity, without fear.