By Alex Perez
If I had listened to those voices telling me over and over again that I wouldn’t have made it past high school, I wouldn’t be the strong and determined individual I am today. After high school, many have the opportunity to succeed in life, and a college education is a seemingly easy route to success. Even though there is no way to measure the percentage of undocumented immigrants that pursue a college degree, different sources state that less than 5% will get a bachelor’s degree. Once undocumented students finish high school, major road blacks are put in their way since they are prohibited from obtaining federal loans, only 14 states provide in-state tuition for these students, and some universities in Georgia and Arizona prohibit undocumented immigrants from enrolling in their schools.
Currently I go to George Fox University on a full-ride scholarship that was awarded to me based on a combination of my academic and leadership achievements. Out of over 400 students in my junior year, I am the only undocumented student. I wear this status like a badge of honor and am the only student on campus who is open from a handful of DREAMers. Fear of humiliation, rejection, and deportation are some of the factors that keep DREAMers in the shadows about their status, but this is a fear I have learned to let go of. Once a face and name is put on a social issue, they make the situation more tangible and real. I cannot vote for legislators that can advocate for my rights, but by being open about my status and being a positive contribution to my community they will hear my voice. Over the last few years DREAMers have started to fight for their rights, and the light is beginning to shine.
The tides are beginning to turn for undocumented students like myself and over 1.4 million immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, including many who have limited memory of foreign lands they used to call home. President Barack Obama put out an executive order mid-June of 2011 called DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This means individuals who were brought as children to the US, are continuing their education, and have a good criminal record can be authorized temporary protective status (not having to fear deportation) and obtain work permits.
I could have mentioned all the different troubles that being an undocumented immigrant has brought, but the positives are currently outshining the negatives. Soon I will be completing my college education, and with a work permit, will be able to give back to my community all the blessings that throughout the years have poured into my life. Thanks to DACA I was able to obtain a paid internship last summer, get my first car, and work full-time while getting my bachelor’s. More importantly, I do not fear deportation while I continue my education. There are individuals who consider me a criminal, outlaw, illegal, etc. for reasons that are not under my control, but deep inside I consider myself an American.