Being undocumented was something I never realized or even understood until my senior year in high school. During this time I was living the teenage American dream. I was well focused on my studiesm and like my American friends, I was highly involved in extracurricular activities. In my eyes there was nothing that could hold me back from being anything and everything I wanted to be. I was in America, home of the American Dream. Little did I know that all of this was about to change.
At the age of 17, all of my friends were applying for college and I had my heart set on joining the military. I wanted to join the Coast Guard and become a search and rescue diver. I had my whole life set out and I knew this is what I wanted to do for my country. I remember that day just like it happened yesterday. I was full of adrenaline as I began the meeting with my recruiter. This adrenaline would soon turn into a feeling of confusion and dismay. The recruiter’s lips kept moving as my ears seemed to block out what was being told to me. I would never be able to join the United States Military, because I was not a citizen of the country I call home. That day I realized I was not like the rest of my classmates. I truly felt as if I was no one. I was undocumented. I remember going back home impassioned with no feeling of hope for my life. Being raised in America, I was taught education and hard work is the key to success. I could not understand how someone who had worked so hard to graduate with above a 3.0 average could simply be told they were unable to follow their dream. What did I do wrong? This is the only country that I know. I was never told I was not an American up until now. I spoke with several different attorneys and they all gave me false hopes in fixing my legal status. I fell into depression and didn’t know what I was going to do with my life after graduation. My faith in God and encouragement from loved ones kept me strong. I could not just give up.
By setting new goals and trusting God I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a four-year college in Georgia. Though I was unsure as to what to make of myself, I became highly involved on campus. I joined several clubs on campus and eventually found my way into the field of business. I knew that I could not apply for grants or loans because of my status; so I worked two jobs just to pay for my tuition. I still didn’t understand why things were the way they were, and it seemed that more and more members of my community were facing the same problems. I began to engulf myself with school and work to hide from the reality that students were deporting everyday.
During my senior year of college I experienced another paradigm. The biggest fear any DREAMer has is to be deported from the only country he or she calls home. I found myself becoming in contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while visiting a friend at Kennesaw State University. Because of the new Georgia law, they found out that I was undocumented. I was sent to Stewart detention center, a holding center for anyone in deportation proceedings. I was kept in custody for four weeks and faced deportation. For the duration of my time at Stewart, I became more exposed to how broken our immigration system is. There are so many DREAMers with the same stories as mine. Young people with no fault of their own are being sent away from everything they know. Students with brilliant talents pursuing bachelor and master degrees and PhD’s; outstanding youth with dreams bigger than ever before; adults with hard-working edicts unmatched by many all looking for hope. It frustrates me to see the actions of parents being negatively reflected into the lives of young people. I began to educate myself by going to the Law Library at Stewart and became even more motivated to find a way to help people in any way that I could. I came across many people who had just given up the chance to fight. I was not an expert in Immigration Law, nor did I know what was going to happen to me; but this did not stop me from understanding the cause and wanting to help people in the same situation.
Once I got out of Stewart I became open with my status as a DREAMer. I was happy that I was out, but I was unhappy that I was not helping out with immigration. I found out about a “Coming out of the Shadows” rally at the State Capital Building in Atlanta. I started connecting with more DREAMers around Georgia. While fighting my deportation case, I came across an organization called United We Dream and they helped my attorney and I create an online petition for my case. It was through their Facebook page that I found out about CAD and immediately knew this was what I had to do. I remember the adrenaline rush I got as I began to read Lucas Silva’s story about why he was walking. I knew that I definitely belonged as part of this project. After sending them an email, I was contacted the next day and brought on-board to join the Finance Committee. I will walk for all of the DREAMers who are in the same position as me. I will walk for people who have hope to earn a degree but are not given the opportunity to put their talents to use. I will walk for a change in our immigration system and a halt in the separation of families. I will walk for every person who feels they do not have a voice in their own country. I will walk for those who feel that their dreams are crumbled and useless due to a broken immigration system. I will walk for those who are raised in America and even without a legal status; they still stand proud to call themselves Americans. For a fellow American I will walk as far as it takes. I will keep walking and never settle for less than equality. I will put one foot in front of the other and not lay rest, because I walk for the American dream and the American dream is you.