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Cue the pomp and circumstance; the class of 2018 is graduating.
While many graduates will take time off this summer and prepare for the next chapter of their lives, undocumented graduates must prepare for an uncertain future.
Undocumented graduates are just some of the Dreamers across the country whom Donald Trump wants to deport and Congress refuses to protect.
Immigrant students, like their fellow graduates, have faced many challenges to get to this point. However, to many of them, graduating is not just receiving a diploma — it is the encapsulation of the hope that their personal and family sacrifices were worth it.
Here are some of the stories of graduating Dreamers and what they hope to do next, in their own words:
Photo Credit: Mikayla Martinez
“I immigrated to the United States from Mexico City with my parents in 1995, right before my third birthday. I began college before DACA was a reality and used to be ashamed and afraid of being undocumented. Once I became a DACA beneficiary in November 2012, I began interning at the University of Houston Law Center’s Immigration Clinic. I had always wanted to be a civil rights attorney and I saw that as a public interest immigration attorney, I could defend my fellow immigrants. My professors and mentors at the UHLC encouraged me to join the immigrant youth movement and before I knew it, I was organizing DACA clinics, participating in actions, and coordinating legislative campaigns to protect tuition equity for undocumented students in Texas. After my graduation in 2015, I became one step closer to achieving my dream of becoming an immigration attorney when I became a law student at the University of Houston. With DACA, I was able to complete internships with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Tahirih Justice Center, and Baker Ripley’s Immigration and Citizenship Program during law school.
With DACA, I will start my dream job representing courageous immigrant women and girls in September. Graduating from law school last week is the happy result of my and my parents’ determination to make our dreams come true and thrive in this country together, even as we face adversity and uncertainty as an undocumented family.”
“I immigrated to the U.S. with my parents back in 2001 with a work visa. I was only nine years old when I arrived, but quickly integrated and adapted to the American way of living. In 2007 I found out about my falling out of status. This did not stop me from pursuing a degree and higher education. I went to Broward College, and then Miami Dade College where I got my Associate degree. Later, I transferred to Florida International University, where I pursued and recently graduated with a major in English and a minor in education. DACA has been a significant part of my pursuit in higher education; without it the “out-of-state” tuition fees were outstandingly more than what I could afford.
With DACA, hard work, dedication, and support from my family and friends, I was able to achieve my goals.
To me, being a Dreamer means never giving up. There is still a chance to continue in this great country I call home, which allowed for me to give back to the community where I grew up. I want to teach younger generations that by following your dreams and putting in work, you can go and achieve your aspirations.”
“I came to the state of Nevada on Christmas Day in 2007 when I was 12 years old. Because of this I didn’t qualify for DACA when it was announced, as I had missed the cut-off date of being in the country since June of 2007. Not qualifying meant that my future remained unclear, but it was this that pushed me to fight for myself and others. Then, in October of 2015, both my mother and I received work permits under a U-Visa. This opened up so many doors for both of us. I was able to get hired at PLAN where I currently work on civic engagement, and I could take on a greater workload at school because I now had a job to pay for college. This way, slowly but surely college became a reality for me. Just a few days ago, I graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate’s Degree in Arts. Without my work permit I would still be at CSN taking one or two classes because that was all I could afford.
Graduating means so much more than just a degree for myself, it is a symbol of hope and perseverance for my family.
My mother didn’t make it to middle school so this degree is for both of us. It shows us that leaving everything back home in Mexico was worth it.”