By Adriana, KIPP Austin Public Schools Alumna
At 6 months old, my baby brother suffered from meningitis. My mother and father left behind the life they knew in central Mexico, where medical care was out of reach, entering the United States illegally in desperate search of a cure for their son. I followed behind a year or so later, just four years old. With financial help, my parents were able to get him a proper diagnosis and secure critical medication–but the disease had taken its toll. My brother remains reliant on medication. His health is deteriorating. He cannot walk, move his body on his own, or speak. My story is different: Growing up in America has helped me find my voice.
My mother stays at home here in Austin, Texas, caring for my brother, who might have died back in Mexico. My father is a plumber. And I just graduated from the a prestigious honors program at the University of Texas at Austin, about to begin my first job as a business analyst at a major management consulting firm. I got here thanks to teachers who cared, and thanks to the doors opened by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
When DACA was enacted, it was exhilarating. I got my Social Security number–that was the first time that I really existed. I remember telling my parents, “I have a status! I can study, I can do it!” I understood the uncertainty of being undocumented. Yet I never lost my motivation despite the obstacles that have come my way.
In high school I was focused on success, commuting 4 ½ hours round trip by bus in the summer in order to earn college credit. In college, my approach was: Let’s go!
I studied international relations and Latin American Studies. Beyond classes, I interned, studied abroad, and worked part time, juggling a hectic schedule but eager to soak in as much as I possibly could. Part of my thesis explored how drug cartels have affected young people–particularly those who are orphaned–in Mexico and the United States. My dream is to guide these vulnerable children toward a better path. I know the work I do must stretch beyond U.S. borders. The reality is, I couldn’t have done all that I have so far without DACA.
Right now, I am thrilled to begin a new position at a company I love, where I have interned for several years. Amid this hopeful excitement, my immigration status clouds the back of my mind. It feels like impending doom. I’m delaying big financial decisions, like replacing my broken-down Volkswagen Beetle, because I don’t want to saddle my parents with debt if I’m deported. I cannot imagine abandoning the only home I know, and the life I have worked so hard to build. For my family, it would mean crushing my dreams. It would mean all the sacrifices they’ve made for me, all the nights I came home crying because college was so unfamiliar, all the time I spent trying to navigate the path to success, would have been in vain.
America believes in rewarding those who fight to succeed, those who work hard. Instead, I feel like I’m being condemned. My brother’s meningitis prevents him from expressing himself fully. I feel the same way about my immigration status. Being undocumented inhibits me from realizing my full potential, making my full contribution. To me, citizenship feels like a superpower. It would be an honor to have the chance to keep living, working, and contributing here in the United States.