I was born in Nueva San Salvador, El Salvador. When I was a little girl, my father said to me, “Try to always be number one in every positive aspect of life. I did not have the chance to become a professional, but that will be compensated if you finish what I did not.” At first, I did not understand his words, but throughout the years, that statement started to make sense to me.
After I finished ninth grade, my father decided it was going to be better for us to move to the United States and, like millions of individuals since the 18th century, strive for the so-called “American Dream”. We settled down in southern California and I started to attend the local high school. Confusion and desperation invaded me since I missed one half of first semester. I did not know anything about the requirements to pursue a decent college education. I still had to acclimate to a country I had never been, diversity of classmates, different schedule, and a language I did not speak at all.
After years of rigorous work and dedication, my grades improved considerably. I had done several extracurricular activities and taken Advanced Placement classes. I said to myself, “If my father works so hard to get the minimum wage and help his family, all this work should not be difficult for me.”
It was my senior year and I had to decide if I was going to attend a community college or a 4 year university. I had to consider that my AB540 status would deprive me from federal financial aid, and probably a good portion of outside scholarships, too. I finally decided to apply to four UC’s. To my surprise, I got accepted to the school of my dreams, UC Berkeley. I started fill out as many scholarship applications as I could. Fortunately, I got several scholarships, which made possible for me to attend UC Berkeley my first year.
I work and dedicate countless number of hours at school to be reminded that my future is uncertain and that attending an elite institution will not guarantee a promising future due to restrictive policies enforced by this government. I have encountered many hardships while attending Berkeley. Commuting from dangerous places where getting chased by males is part of the routine, working 2 jobs, and having registration blocks seems bizarre, but I have survived. Going through a different college experience has allowed me to see what others do not and has helped me understand many problems society faces today. It has given me the motivation to do what I can to fight for justice.
Even though my future is uncertain due to my undocumented status, I am currently double majoring in Ethnic Studies and Spanish Literature, hoping to go to law school and work on pro bono cases. I have learned in these past years that I would have much to offer to society if given the opportunity to further my education.
Manuel (fictitious name) is someone I have been working with lately. A Guatemalan who escaped from the claws of the armed forces and came to the US seeking for political asylum. This is one of the multiple cases I have learned about through my job as a legal assistant at an immigration law firm. That experience along with being one of thousands of undocumented college students trying to survive and working twice as much as most students has made me realize that there is much to do in order to help immigrant communities reach upward mobility and to help make justice in a system that does not fully value the essential contributions that immigrants from all backgrounds make to this nation, “a nation of immigrants.”
Sometimes I think to myself, “How come the statue of liberty has inscribed on it: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…’ if many people find themselves more oppressed and subjected to problems such as racialization when trying to strive for the American Dream?”Individuals have to go through a struggle, assimilate to a new culture and language because in the US they do find the opportunities to become prosperous. I find amazing what these people do and that has made me realize that I truly want to work with immigrant communities in the future by becoming a public interest lawyer and an activist.