I am afraid to tell my story, the consequences are immense but silence is no longer an option.
My family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico sixteen years ago on a visa. Throughout those years, my parents paid countless visits to lawyers and applied for residency three times. For various reasons, such as the 9/11 attack, all those residency applications were denied. We lost thousands of dollars and, worse, we lost hope.
Attending college was difficult, the application process for a non-resident was troublesome but the financial difficulties were even greater. I could not apply for financial aid due to a lack of social security number. At the same time, I could not work to help my family out. Despite these obstacles, I am immensely proud that I was able to graduate college with a psychology degree.
After graduating, I still hoped to find a job that could sponsor me for a work visa and I applied to dozens of jobs. All I wanted to do was help people. I had certified in nonprofit management in conjunction with my degree and wanted to work in a nonprofit organization and help those in need. I received several job offers but was quickly disillusioned when I found out they wouldn’t sponsor me. That is how I, a recent college graduate, ended up working as a receptionist making minimum wage for the next two years.
I later found out that a local school district sponsored teachers for work visas due to the great need in that profession. I started gaining hope again and joined an alternative certification program. I worked hard, used up all my hard earned savings, and applied for a teaching position. I accepted a job and worked there free of charge while I started my process for a work permit. By this time I was over 21, I had overstayed my previous visa and my work permit was denied: in other words, undocumented. I was devastated and felt defeated. I did not get paid for time I worked there and I was, once again, left without a job and without hope.
All the immigration lawyers I have encountered have given me the same advice; they say that my only option is to get married to a U.S. citizen. I do have a wonderful boyfriend but do not want to rush into marriage for the wrong reasons. My situation becomes even more frustrating as I have an expired driver’s license that cannot be renewed, I am unemployed, and I am undocumented and living in fear. I avoid people so that I don’t have to answer their questions about what I am doing with my life. I am tired of lying and making up excuses so that I don’t have to see the judgment in their eyes. I am tired of hiding and living in fear. And I don’t want to be pressured into marriage and ruin a perfectly good relationship by rushing things just to get my papers. The DREAM Act would be the answer to my prayers. I don’t want to have my life on hold anymore, instead I want to live life and be free.