Financial Hardship / Making History / Stories

America T.

America T, 26, Atlanta, GA, Born in Mexico 

americaBefore DACA, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be because a good job and higher education were unattainable for me. Though I’d graduated high school, I worked at low-paying jobs with long hours. Georgia wanted me to pay out-of-state tuition even though I’d grown up in the state, so college was unaffordable even if I could get accepted which was most unlikely.

DACA changed my life and I applied immediately. I was able to find a good job and I’m trying to save for college as I explore internships, grants and scholarships. I was able to buy a car and even get a license, though Georgia will take that away from me once my old one expires. I was able to use my own name to get insurance and buy a cell phone. My world expanded overnight.

It shouldn’t be so hard in America for a woman named America. I now know what I want to be: an immigration attorney. I’m determined to go to law school despite all the obstacles and have already become a certified paralegal. With this knowledge I help others in my community navigate the legal system.

For the last three years, I’ve been employed by an accounting firm where I work in accounting, payroll and tax preparation. Someday soon I’d like to find work in a law office to gain hands-on experience as I pursue my education.

I’ve been in the States since 1999 when I walked over a border crossing. No one asked me any questions but my mom, who was supposed to follow on the same day, was held up and turned back. It was a long, scary month before she was able to make it through. I was only nine, but I had family here in the U.S.  I waited and worried with my older brother and sister. Finally, my mom got through the checkpoint and joined us. We were together again and briefly lived in Texas with my brother. However, my mom had more family in Atlanta and wanted to move there, so she took her two daughters to Georgia. My brother decided not to go and was deported to Mexico a few months later. My mom joined him in 2009, but my sister and I felt like we had found a home in Atlanta.

In 2014, with DACA parole, I was able to visit my family on humanitarian grounds. My grandfather had already died and my grandmother was ill. I was reunited with my mom, whom I hadn’t seen in five years, and my brother, who had been gone for 14. It was wonderful to see my family but I have made my home in the States.

There has been too much sacrifice made by my family to get me here and provide me with a place to live. I have struggled too long to give up. Those who disparage immigrants don’t know how much we add to this country. We have come for a better life and we work hard to improve ourselves and our communities. We make America stronger with more small businesses, more dedicated employees and ambitious students. We wouldn’t have come in the first place except we believed we could make things better for ourselves, our families and our new country. We need to be recognized for our contributions. We are proving how American we are every day.