My Name is Liz and I am Undocumented
I am afraid to tell my story; the consequences are immense, but silence is no longer an option.
My family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico sixteen years ago on a visa. Throughout those years, my parents paid countless visits to lawyers and applied for residency three times. For various reasons, such as the 9/11 attack, all those residency applications were denied. We lost thousands of dollars and, worse, we lost hope.
Attending college was difficult; the application process for a non-resident was troublesome, but the financial difficulties were even greater. I could not apply for financial aid due to a lack of social security number. At the same time, I could not work to help my family out. Despite these obstacles, I am immensely proud that I was able to graduate college with a psychology degree.
After graduating, I still hoped to find a job that could sponsor me for a work visa, and I applied to dozens of jobs. All I wanted to do was help people. I had certified in nonprofit management in conjunction with my degree, and wanted to work in a nonprofit organization and help those in need. I received several job offers, but was quickly disillusioned when I found out they wouldn’t sponsor me. That is how I, a recent college graduate, ended up working as a receptionist making minimum wage for the next two years.
I later found out that a local school district sponsored teachers for work visas due to the great need in that profession. I started gaining hope again and joined an alternative certification program. I worked hard, used up all my hard earned savings, and applied for a teaching position. I accepted a job and worked there free of charge while I started my process for a work permit. By this time I was over 21, I had overstayed my previous visa, and my work permit was denied: in other words, undocumented. I was devastated and felt defeated. I did not get paid for the time I worked there and I was, once again, left without a job and without hope.
All the immigration lawyers I have encountered have given me the same advice; they say that my only option is to get married to a U.S. citizen. I do have a wonderful boyfriend, but do not want to rush into marriage for the wrong reasons. My situation becomes even more frustrating as I have an expired driver’s license that cannot be renewed, I am unemployed, and I am undocumented and living in fear. I avoid people so that I don’t have to answer their questions about what I am doing with my life. I am tired of lying and making up excuses so that I don’t have to see the judgment in their eyes. I am tired of hiding and living in fear. And I don’t want to be pressured into marriage and ruin a perfectly good relationship by rushing things just to get my papers. The DREAM Act would be the answer to my prayers. I don’t want to have my life on hold anymore; instead I want to live life and be free.
~Liz, DREAMer from Houston, TX
This is National Coming Out of the Shadows Week for undocumented youth, modeled on the LGBT strategy to raise awareness through disclosure of status. If you are inspired by the DREAMers’ courage in coming out, you can help by supporting the DREAM Act. Visit DreamActivist.org to learn more.