Maria was born in San Sebastian del Grande, Jalisco, MX. Her parents came first to the states to save up money. Their plan was to save enough money and go back to Mexico. But they soon realized that it was going to take more than a few months to be financially prepared, so they decided to bring Maria and her sibling over to the U.S. instead. She was seven years old when she arrived in the U.S. Now Maria is a legal assistant at an immigration office and is proud to help people in a similar situation as her.
When was the moment you realized that you were undocumented?
I always knew that I couldn’t go back to Mexico because if I did I couldn’t come back. I knew that much at that point. I think that when everyone started taking drivers ed and I couldn’t because I didn’t have a social security number, that’s when I realized that things were different for me. I think that’s when it hit the most.
I also remember how I tried out for soccer at my school, but then wasn’t allowed to play because I didn’t have insurance.
How did DACA change your life?
It changed a lot for me. As soon as it came out I started registering for college. I was also a server for ten years and that gave me the opportunity to find a new job. I was now able to do something I always wanted to do, which was to become a legal assistant and work with immigration attorneys.
I was also able to buy a house because even to rent an apartment they ask you for a social and background check.
Did DACA make you less afraid?
Yes, it changed mostly when it came to the police. I was scared to get pulled over without a driver’s license and being sent to jail. After getting DACA that changed, because I now have a driver’s license and feel safe to drive around. I think I was more scared of the police than immigration at that time. I didn’t realize at that time that immigration could deport you.
What were your initial thoughts/feelings during the last election?
When I saw the numbers going up for our current president I decided that I was just going to go to sleep and not worry about it till tomorrow. In my mind, there was no way that he was going to win. The next day when I woke up to the news that he was going to be the new president of the U.S. it was really devastating. I started crying. But, then I was like “he’s not going to cut my wings,” so I stopped crying, got ready, and went to work.
At work though, I realized after talking to the attorneys and everyone else how this could mean that DACA could end, and that terrified me. I was also scared that my parents could get deported.
What are you the most proud of so far and why?
I’m proud of everything that I have accomplished. After obtaining my work permit my life changed a lot. Doing what I do right now is something that I never imagined I would have been able to do. The position that I have, being the DOJ Accredited Representative and being able to represent people in court and with USCIS it has been my dream.
What is something that you are hoping to accomplish in the future?
I want to become an immigration attorney. Even though I am a DOJ accredited representative, I want to graduate from law school in the future.
How might losing DACA affect your goals?
I wouldn’t have a work permit so I probably wouldn’t have a job. Also, going to college would be something I would have to reconsider because would it even be worth it to go to law school if I wouldn’t be able to practice law? Idaho doesn’t allow you to take the state bar; you have to either get it from California or Washington if you are a DACA recipient. Without DACA I don’t know if you could even take the bar test.
What makes you want to talk about your story, and why do you think it’s important to speak up?
It’s important to speak up. Especially to show those people who don’t know their neighbor is undocumented, that we are not criminals like the president says. I want to show them that there are a lot of us and realize that we have careers, we pay taxes and there are a lot of great people who contribute to this country. My story is just one, but there are much more similar to it. I’m not the only one who has accomplished so much.
What do you wish people were more aware of regarding immigrants/DACA recipients?
I wish people would stop judging. I don’t think they realize for someone to leave their family, their country, and everything behind, it was for a reason it wasn’t just because they wanted to come here for no reason.
What message do you have for DACA recipients?
Don’t let anyone cut your wings. We will not let anything bring our hopes down. We will fight for something better and for something permanent.