My mother, with nothing but a suitcase in her hand and hope in her heart, brought me to this country when I was 5. She wanted me to get a better life than she had in her country. Even though she attended law school in Mexico, she was unable to find a job and needed to find a way to put food on the table. So she did what many parents have done before her, and brought me to the great United States.
I always knew I was brought here illegally. I had this feeling that I didn’t belong here — or at least, that people wouldn’t think I did. Because of that fear, I didn’t let anyone know my status. After all, I considered myself an American in every way, I just lacked the proper paperwork.
I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, going to different schools in the city because my mom and I were always moving due to financial struggles. But I was always a good student, and my teachers let my mother know that I would one day have a bright future.
Now I’m 19 and I’m not scared anymore. I am fighting for the New York State Dream (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act. The act would give students like me a path to higher education in New York — by providing us with a means to receive state-funded financial aid through the Tuition Assistance Program — so we can reach our potential and contribute fully to society and the economy.
I always come back to my mother’s dreams. She left everything she knew behind her to become a domestic worker in New York City. She always says, “I clean houses so that one day you don’t have to go through what I have gone through.”
Our parents are the original dreamers. It is because of them that we young people are here, eager to use our talents and skills to continue to make America great. Our parents work arduous hours, underpaid and fearful of not seeing their families again. The federal immigration reform being debated in Washington would bring a sense of ease to these hard workers.
Immigration is a critical part of New York’s rich history. Despite the negative sentiment that has risen against “illegal immigrants,” reform can unite this country and highlight all the contributions that immigrants like my family bring.
Luba Cortes is a youth leader for Make the Road New York, a grassroots immigrants rights organization.
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