My Future Depends on Immigration Reform
I have lived in the United States since I was 6 years old. I moved here with my family from Bolivia for the same reason that many immigrants come to the United States — in order to have a better life. I have always worked hard in school, getting A’s, because for my family, college is extremely important. As a first-generation college student and an immigrant to this country, I learned the hard way that access to college has a lot more to do with money than I realized.
I applied to several colleges last fall and was accepted but sadly could not attend. Because I am not a citizen, I am not eligible for scholarships and funds from schools, making the tuition far too expensive for me and my family. So instead, this year I am going to a community college with hopes to transfer next fall. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been extremely helpful in giving me temporary residency and allowing me to work, but sadly it does not help with gaining permanent residency status. I have spent most of my life in the United States, and I see my identity as part American, so I do think that there needs to be some immigration reform to help me and others gain permanent legal status and have the opportunity to become productive members in society. Without immigration reform, these goals are difficult to achieve.
That is why I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work for AAUW, and the fact that AAUW supports immigration reform makes it even better! AAUW supports the adoption of the DREAM Act, as well as a path to legal status, reforms that will update the U.S. visa system and build a domestic STEM workforce, and measures to prevent human trafficking and help immigrant survivors of violence. Thus, AAUW supports the Senate-passed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744).
Growing up, I was never much into politics, but working with AAUW has changed this immensely for me. I am learning about problems such as the gender wage gap, which I didn’t realize was still an issue until I started working here. I am proud to work for an organization that supports access to high-quality and affordable education, pay equity, research on women and girls, and, of course, immigration reform.
In only my second week as an intern for AAUW, I was invited to go to the White House for an event about immigration. Not only that, but I had the chance to meet President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden! When I was going to shake their hands, I was so nervous but excited, and I am sure it showed on my face. I introduced myself, saying my name and that I work for AAUW, and said thank you for everything they have done for this country. I had the opportunity to stand behind President Obama while he gave his remarks asking Congress to pass immigration reform this year. I felt so incredibly lucky and proud to have the chance to hear his speech and stand behind him. I was not only representing myself, but I was also representing all the other immigrants of this country who struggle every day to receive the same rights as people who were born here. I was by far the youngest person there, and without knowing anyone else, it was a bit intimidating. In order to make a difference, you must take a stand, and that is the opportunity that working at AAUW has given me.
Last year, I would have never imagined that I would ever get to meet the president of the United States. This year has gone by much differently than I had planned, but I am so happy with the way it is turning out. I would not have had the opportunity to meet the president if I had not been working for AAUW, and for that I will always be thankful. Please join me in urging Congress to take action on immigration reform.
This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern B.D.