Teresa C, 24, El Monte, CA, Born in Mexico
I was only eight years old when I came to the United States. This is when my life changed forever. I honestly don’t know how it even happened, but after being denied our visas several times, my mom simply decided we were going to come to the States to reunite with my father and older siblings — no matter what. The decision was made on Monday, and by Wednesday, we had left our home in Sahuayo, Michoacan and traveled to Guadalajara to catch a bus to Nogales. I wasn’t really aware of the significance of this trip. All I knew was that I was going to reunite with my father and older siblings.
I had no idea of the dangers that lay ahead. On the way to Nogales, our bus was stopped by federales who attempted to kidnap my sister because their captain thought she was very attractive. When my mom stood up to this police captain, she was thankfully joined by fellow passengers and we were allowed to continue our journey. Our tentative situation became clear at that moment. My mom was trying to get me and my three siblings across the border with fake visas. The questioning by an immigration officer made us all very nervous. We just knew we’d be sent back or land in jail. After several days, we were able to cross and then we were separated for a few days. We didn’t eat or drink for three days waiting to be taken home. When we finally arrived in El Monte, CA, we realized that the very difficult crossing into the States was just the beginning of our challenges where we had to adapt to a new country, learn the language and live with the fear of being deported because we were undocumented.
I’ve lived in this country for the last 16 years, twice as long as I lived in Mexico. El Monte is my home. I see myself as much more than a person without papers. I’m a daughter, a sister, friend, girlfriend. I’m a student with ambitious goals. I’m a fighter.
My family is together. All my five siblings are married now and have started their own families, but we are together and will never forget our struggles to get where we are now. I qualified for DACA as did one of my siblings, but another missed the age requirement by one year so the DACA extension, included in President Obama’s second executive order, would be very welcome.
DACA has truly changed my life in many ways. I applied right away. It gave me the opportunity to seek better employment with a work permit and Social Security card. I’m able to grow professionally, not be resigned to factory work, which was my fate before DACA. I now work at UCLA at Mt. SAC in the Dream program, which serves undocumented students. I have a driver’s license and can drive to classes and work. In the fall, I plan to apply for law school. My goal is to become an immigration attorney.
With DACA, I can live my life without fear of deportation, though I still worry about others in my family. I can pursue my education and career goals. I can give back to my community. My heritage is Mexican, but my life is here in the States with my family. I must validate my parents’ dreams for me and make all their sacrifices on my behalf worthwhile. I am much more than Undocumented; I’m a woman full of dreams and achievements — determined to realize my potential and be the kind of American this country needs.