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Without a path to residency or citizenship, these immigrants are prevented from getting regular jobs without lying or obtaining fake papers. Many are forced to become entrepreneurs. But increasingly hostile state laws have relegated these small businesses to the shadows, making it harder for them to prosper.
CNN talks to Celso, who runs a computer services company and has a business management degree from Arizona State University; Carla, a 19 year old graphic designer who attends trade school classes at a high school; and Prada, who went from studying political science to taking over his late father’s landscaping company — one that currently employs a documented Mexican-American.
Says Celso of his home in Phoenix, Arizona:
It’s where I had my first kiss, where I learned to drive, where I graduated high school…Sometimes I catch myself about to say ‘born and raised’ in Phoenix, then I realize I wasn’t born here.
It’s a sentiment shared by thousands of undocumented immigrant youth — many of whom came to this country when they were children and are American in all but paperwork.
I realized that we have to change this social notion that we’re bad for the country and we’re leeches. We’re human. We have families. We contribute.