Social Medium : Woman dreams of her future

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“What does it feels like to be legal?” Susy asked Noel after learning that he became a legal U.S. resident.

That’s the type of questions an undocumented immigrant asks.

The story of Susy, a City College student, is one of living years apart from her mother and coping with being in the country illegally.

She is one of thousands of capable students in San Diego County, and millions across the United States living the nightmare of not knowing their future.

Susy was eight years old when her mother decided to emigrate from her home state of Guerrero to the United States to search for a better-paying job to support her two kids, who stayed with their grandmother.

Her mother’s absence kept Susy in a state of permanent grief. It hurt so much, that after waiting for two years, she begged her mother to return to get her.

She was only 10 years old but did not have official permission to immigrate.

But her mother decided that they had to be reunited and arranged for smugglers to bring her into the country.

Susy took an airplane trip alone to Tijuana, where she was transported to a dark house. As soon as she walked in, she noticed other children and adults waiting anxiously, many dreaming of reuniting with family, others dreaming on earning enough money to send their families back home.

Along the way, the smuggler gave her a new identity, Jamie Mendoza, and told her to practice words in English and to answer “San Diego” when asked where she was born.

Susy agonized for two days over how she should act when she would cross the border.

Finally, the moment to cross through the port of entry arrived, but the Border Patrol agent did not ask her any questions, and like that she was in.

Susy was approaching the dream to be with her mother, a great achievement for a young child.

The last stop was at a Jack in the Box. She recognized her mother, who was praying. Hugs, kisses and tears of joy to recover the two years they had lost.

But Susy’s new life in San Diego was not easy. Being here meant she had to learn a difficult language with different customs.

Susy missed her hometown.

She felt separated from all those people who spoke so differently from her, insensitive to her pain of being ashamed of not being able to communicate. She began to fail in her classes.

Someone told Susy that since she had no papers, she would never do anything. That depressed her even more.

If her country could provide some opportunities she would not have to endure this ordeal.

Fortunately, she met some advisers at her high school that changed her life.

They were from the Chicano Student Movement from Aztlan and MEChA and they explained to her how the DREAM Act would help undocumented students to pursue their education.

The DREAM Act is a bipartisan legislation that would give undocumented students who grew up in the United States a chance to attend public colleges and universities and apply for public financial aid. The act did not make it into law.

A few months ago Gov. Jerry Brown took a stand for immigrants’ rights when he signed the California DREAM Act, a similar legislation to the DREAM Act.

“It is a welcome change from the intolerance and counterproductive policies being adopted in so many other states around the country. The law is an investment in California’s future and a powerful defense of assimilation, education and the rights of children,” Brown said to the New York Times on Oct. 15.

Susy is the first in her family to receive a high school diploma, and the first to go to college. She has become an activist for the rights of undocumented students.

Last year at City College, at the IDEAS conference (Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success), a student organization that supports undocumented students, members from this group asked those in attendance to refer to them as “unprotected” students rather than “illegal.”
This issue is a national one. According to the White House Blog, on December 2010, stated that passing the DREAM Act at the national level will allow students to live up to their fullest potential and contribute to the economic growth of this country, something vital for America to remain competitive in today’s global economy.

Students like Susy are the future of America. She is a full-time student who plans to enter nursing at UCLA. She and the millions of others will assume the jobs when Baby Boomers retire. Her work as a waitress help pay for books, but she also helps her mother financially.
The California DREAM Act is now a reality, but it’s only one of the many steps in the civil rights movement that we need to enact.

We need to continue encouraging, promoting and supporting the education of undocumented students in the United States. They need equal access to higher education for all, regardless of their immigration status.

Ten years have passed since Susy arrived in this country. Susy has become stronger and gained a voice.

She’s aware that she may get deported at any time but continues to fight for an immigration reform that will allow students like her live better and contribute to their home.

“I do not live in fear. If I lived in fear I would not do anything,” Susy said.

When asked, “What would you tell the opponents of the DREAM Act?”

Without hesitation she answers: “I’d like to ask them one question, ‘Do you know what NAFTA is?”

In her home state of Guerrero, NAFTA left farmers, like her family, unable to compete with American farmers and to make a living.

With few employment options to feed their families, many people had no other alternative than to immigrate to the United States.

The U.S. however, makes is virtually impossible to do it legally, so millions opted to move here without authorization to make enough money to send home to their families.

Susy works hard to be the best student she can be as she looks forward to the day she knows what it feels like to be a legal.

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