EL PASO – The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are more than 1.7 million undocumented students in our nation. This is the case of my friend Ana, a 26-year old political science college student.
Ana and I grew up together in a small mostly Anglo town in Kansas. For the security of Ana the location and her full name will not be disclosed. I never noticed any differences between us; we both always embraced the American culture rather than our Mexican roots.
In mid-June the Obama administration announced the “Deferred Action Plan” I was surprised and very happy to hear about what could be amazing development for thousands of undocumented students. This could help so many people I know, one in particular my dear friend Ana.
I was surprised that the government was looking into ways of how to assist those students that attended school with me but many could not attend college or had to drop out due to financial difficulties. Like Ana, many immigrants have to struggle to get a job, license, and attend school in the United States.
Her family like many others immigrated to the U.S. in the pursuit of the “American Dream.” They left everything behind in Mexico, their country of origin and arrived to the United States with her family when she was only nine years-old. Her parents wanted a better life for her and her siblings.
“They only wanted to offer us something better, something our country could not provide for us,” Ana said.
Ana story has been one of great hardship. At the age of 15 she lost her mother to cancer. After the diagnosis her mother was not provided with appropriate medical treatment due to her legal status in the country. Losing her mother one of the worse moments, but it made her one of the strongest persons I have ever known. She took on the responsibility as a mother and raised her three younger siblings on her own, two of them U.S. citizens.
“Working, going to school and raising my siblings was one of the toughest things I have done in my life, but I love them,” Ana said.
Like others in her situation, Ana has been afraid to apply for the program. Many students fear deportation since the program does not offer any permanent residency or citizenship. “You just don’t know if they will approve your application; it is uncertain,” Ana said.
Many students were excited to hear the great news about a plan that promises something many had been waiting for. “Many are not well informed and even run into scams from so called attorneys,” states Ana. Something the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) warns about.
After much hesitation, Ana applied for the “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Process.” It is a lengthy process but once completed, promises a work permit and could prevent deportation up to two years. Applicants have to prove that they entered the country before the age of 16, are under the age of 31, have constantly resided in the United States since 2007, and have obtained a high school diploma or GED.
Many students struggle to prove and provide paperwork since they are almost invisible in this country. Documents to prove identity and eligibility could include a passport or birth certificate, school transcripts, medical and financial records and military service records according to the USCIS. Ana was one of the lucky ones; she and her parents had kept most of her school and medical records. She had to ask for bank records and also get recommendation letters from her professors and family friends who had known her for a minimum of five years.
To assist her with the process Ana asked me to write her a letter of recommendation. She gathered a total of five different letters for the application. Three from her professors and high school teachers and two from personal friends. In the letter I described our friendship and the length of time I have known her. I also described why she is one of the best candidates for this proposition and how this will help her and the contribution she had made and could bring to our country.
Ana gathered all of her paperwork, with papers in hand and a money order for $465, she sent out her application. “All I hope for is an approval,” said Ana. She is very hopeful she will get approved but also is scared of deportation. “I could never leave and go back to a strange country,” said Ana. Ana like many others is scared of deportation and leaving everything they have accomplished here in the United States.
Just last week Ana received her letter for her biometrics. The process in which her fingerprints are taken for and a background check is performed. This is to make sure that there are no criminal offenses. Ana was completely ecstatic when she received her letter for her appointment. After this process she will only have to wait for her approval and work permit. One step closer to her dream of one day of becoming a full citizen of a country she loves and is proud of.
“I have hope for a better future,” Ana said, after the reelection of President Obama. She is hoping for a better resolution and full citizenship. “I am a natural born Mexican, but an American at heart.”