When you hear the word “Arizona” I bet one of the first people you think of is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, or Russell Pearce. The battle that is raging between these individuals and the undocumented community has taken national spotlight many times. We can go on for hours discussing the injustices and fear these individuals have inflicted within our communities. Instead I want to take the time to share the story of a DREAMer living in this otherwise beautiful state. I want to share my story, my pain, my triumph , my battle with you.
My father brought my family and I to the US illegally when I was two years old; to get away from the wasted potential of living under Mexican poverty. My father is the hardest working man I know. Never once has this hero of mine complained about roasting out in the blazing Arizona heat everyday just to provide for my family. Never once has he complained about the terrible back pain he suffers from, a sign the hard labor is taking a toll on his body. I look at my father’s sun burnt face, rough hands and grey stricken hair and know that I must keep fighting. I am lucky enough to be able to look at my father bright eyes; hear my father’s booming laugh and wise words every day. The fact that my father has the will power to come home and plug himself into our lives makes him my beacon of strength.
My mother has always been by my side and has provided guidance whenever I felt completely lost. She alone taught me how to add, subtract, and multiply the summer after kindergarten because she wanted me to be ahead. She gave me hope when I graduated high school with no job, no scholarships, no way of paying for an education I wanted to pursue. It was with her help that I found a way to pay for my education. She dished out the tough love quite heavily when I was curled up in a ball unable to fathom the fact that by the time I managed to graduate with my business degree I would not be allowed to use my education.
Being an undocumented student living in Arizona became a bigger challenge in 2011. I am legally not allowed to work, I cannot get a license, and I receive absolutely no help with my tuition. Thanks to Prop 300 tuition has tripled. A regular college course will now cost me nearly $1,000. I decided that I was not going to sit by and wait for change. I decided I needed to become involved with the DREAM Act movement. Only after the passing of the DREAM Act can motivated undocumented individuals truly pursue their dreams and be recognized for their tremendous hard work.
I became President of Phoenix Dreamers, a chapter from the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and have since then become very involved with community projects. I am a member of the No Dream Deferred campaign which was created to provide free informational forums for Deferred Action for communities across Arizona. The No Dream Deferred Campaign will provide free applications drives for individuals that need help filling in their deferred action application. We partnered up with Somos America and the American Immigration Lawyers Association to provide this free professional service. It is amazing how many great people I have been introduced to and am now working alongside.
It was a year ago that I felt alone in this fight to be recognized for my hard work. It was a year ago I felt like giving up on everything and just let myself become a victim to my circumstances. My life has been transformed. I have woken up to a national movement made up of amazing students, teachers, community leaders and motivated politicians. Being undocumented is not a curse, but a challenge put forth to make me a stronger individual. My advice to you is to become proactive and push past your fear. You will be rewarded. Whether it is with opportunities, knowledge or a whole feeling; you will be grateful you became involved.