I was ten years old. My mother had become a victim of assault. My brother became a victim of political terrorism. I had seen my family lose everything and now we were about to lose each other. I kissed my father goodbye without knowing it may be the last time I ever saw him. After a 5 hour flight from Peru I arrived to Florida on September 1st, 2005. My mother and I would begin our journey in the US without our family. I understood things would be different, we would be alone, but yet the atmosphere in Florida felt safer.
I quickly adapted into the American education system easing my way out of ESOL and into advanced classes. Growing up undocumented, I was unsure about my future. I knew that regardless of my excellent grades, involvement, and community service my status would impact, or potentially stop my education, but my mother and I never gave up. You see living under the shadows means keeping silence. It means not having transportation to soccer practice. It means lying whenever someone asked you why your mother did not drive because you fear retaliation for your family. It means never qualifying for reduced lunch. It means that by 10th grade I would sit in college informational events knowing that they were out of reach, not because of my grades but because tuition would cost twice as my mom's annual salary.
When DACA came along, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I was able to provide for my family, obtain a job, and no longer live in the shadows. I graduated from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program with the state’s highest academic scholarship and chose the University of Florida (UF) to be my home for the next 4 years.
A week before classes started I was told that my tuition would be tripled and my only financial aid will be taken away, and all because of my status. Tears filled my eyes thinking that college was a dream that I may never be able to make a reality. I had a choice to make; I could either back my bags and leave my university or I could fight for my right to higher education. Fighting for tuition equity for undocumented students across Florida sparked my passion for social justice and taught me that together we are unstoppable. Since then I utilized my voice to speak for immigrant rights and human rights, as well as started programs that provide visibility to undocumented students at my university. Currently, I am President of Chispas, the only student-run organization at UF that focuses on immigrant rights and immigrant advocacy.
Today, I am working towards a Bachelor’s of Sciences in Biology with a minor in Latin American studies on road to graduate with honors from one of the best public universities in the nation.
I am also interning with the Florida Senate to learn first hand how I can continue to create tangible change for other marginalized communities. After my undergraduate studies, I plan to attend Law school in hopes to do what others have done before me; fight for our families.
Immigrant youth like myself want nothing else but to further their education and give back to their community. This country needs a solution for the broken immigration system that continuously threatens to separate families and ignores all the great things immigrants have contributed to the US. DACA is good first step, but much more work is needed. As Americans, we must recognize the contributions of immigrants and reject the anti-immigrant sentiment that has taken grip of our nation.