KIPP Alumnus Luz Elena Hernandez Cortez

Where Would I Be Without DACA?

Luz is a KIPP Bay Area Schools alumna. The DACA program opened doors for her that otherwise would have been shut. She is now a permanent resident and eager to share her story.

KIPP Alumnus Luz Elena Hernandez Cortez

By Luz, Alumna from KIPP Bay Area Schools

“If anyone asks you where you’re from, you tell them you were born here in the United States,” my dad told me with a serious and worried tone when I first started elementary school. I quickly nodded my head but was confused as to why my dad had said this to me. Why was me being born in another country such a terrible thing? This sentiment would follow me throughout my whole life. Looking at me, you would have no idea I was born in Mexico. I speak English fluently, I have many American mannerisms, I always had great grades and I don’t look any different from my friends who were born in the United States. Still I knew my immigration status would always differentiate me from everyone else.

Being undocumented, I knew I had to work two or three times as hard as other people if I wanted to get where I wanted to be. Sometimes my own community would question why I was working so hard to go to college when I wouldn’t be able to work in my desired field because of my status. That I should focus on working and making money instead. Luckily my parents always encouraged me and supported me to get my education. My dad always explained to me that education was the key to progress and that I had to be prepared for any opportunity that came along. So, I continued to work hard and prepare myself for the uncertain future that lay ahead.

DACA was the opportunity I so longingly waited for. DACA changed my life because it gave me the opportunity to fully go for my dreams without fearing the negative repercussions that always existed for me because of my immigration status. When I got accepted into UC Berkeley, I no longer doubted my ability to go because I knew I could now work to help pay for school. I worked a full-time job, and at one point, even two jobs, and I successfully transferred from community college and graduated from UC Berkeley within five years. I am now working for a non-profit that uses film and media as a catalyst for cultural transformation to help everyone achieve their full potential.

I would have never gotten where I am today without DACA. Dreamers are some of the hardest, most passionate working people I know. They just want to be able to give back to their community, help their families and make this world a better place. I am very fortunate that my immigration status has recently changed to permanent resident but that does not mean that I am going to forget where I came from and not fight for DACA. I believe in DACA and the millions of people it helps. It would be a huge mistake and disservice to this nation to take DACA away. The United States is a country built by immigration and immigrants. I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow and succeed and achieve the American Dream!