For Immediate Release: December 19, 2019
Contact: Carli Kientzle at [email protected]
Christian of the University of Houston is TheDream.US’ “DREAMer of the Week”
Washington, DC – TheDream.US, the nation’s largest college access and success program for undocumented immigrant youth, is continuing its “DREAMer of the Week” feature – a weekly profile of a TheDream.US Scholar whose story offers a powerful example of the incalculable contributions of DREAMers to America. TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth, having provided 5,000 college scholarships to DREAMers at more than 70 partner colleges in 16 states and Washington, DC.
The Scholars’ stories are especially powerful and poignant following the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an executive action, which provided temporary legal protection for undocumented youth, terminated by President Trump in September 2017. The legal limbo and uncertainty is affecting Scholars’ lives, health, and futures and threatens to keep Scholars from fulfilling their incredible potential.
This week’s DREAMer is Christian, a Scholar of the University of Houston:
In the United States, I remember seeing all the room for opportunities. I struggled with the language the first fall I enrolled in classes, but I told myself that I could do it, so I’d go home after school each day and read English newspapers and books out loud to improve my language skills. In less than two years, I graduated from ESL (English as a Second Language) and was placed in English honors classes. Hard-work pays off.
I would tell potential Dream.US applicants not to ever give up. Hard work does really pay off. Despite the frightening costs of higher education, be fearless and shoot for your wildest dreams. You can do it!
I don’t see myself anywhere without higher education. I remember how much my single mother’s lack of higher education made her stumble with career barriers and how hard it was to put food on the table working side jobs which were awfully underpaid. I don’t see myself anywhere without the endless opportunities my education has given me. A college degree is very important given my immigration status. I remember my professors promising me and every other student a world of opportunities, if we obtained higher education. A college degree provides a sense of stability and possibility of a future. I plan on using my Public Relations degree to highlight stories in the media for struggling groups of people, like refugees, immigrants, women and people of color.
My family came to the United States when I was eight years old. I remember leaving my hometown very unexpectedly. I never said goodbye to my family members or friends, because I was supposed to be back by the end of the summer. My mother overstayed her visa to give me the opportunity of a lifetime (higher education) that she never had, which in turn made her undocumented. She worked numerous side jobs including custodial work and babysitting to provide all the essentials we needed at home.
Throughout my freshman year, my mother began to show symptoms of dementia. Due to our lack of finances, we could never afford medical care. DACA allowed me to work three part time jobs to be able to afford a small portion of my mother’s dementia costs, but it was too late. My mother’s dementia quickly progressed and soon required 24/7 care, which I could not provide while attending college full time and simultaneously working a full-time job to afford our home expenses. My grandmother graciously offered to become my mother’s caregiver while I finish my undergraduate degree. Due to the current administration’s removal of Advanced Parole, the privilege to see my mother was taken away. I continue to financially provide for my mother and her dementia treatment costs despite her distance. My mother and I always had and continue to have the same vision for me; pursue the higher education she never had the privilege to obtain.
DACA completely changed my life and empowered me to use my education and resources to give back to our community. DACA allowed me to come out of the shadows and undergo a background check to show everyone that I was a good contributing member of society. It allowed me to become the head of the household and financially support my mother and me. It gave me the comfort of not having to hide from police officers, and it gave me the courage to advocate for the other 800,000+ DACA recipients through demonstrations and campaigns started by United We Dream.
Before and after her dementia, my mom was my guiding light. When I was younger, we would pack a lunch and bike to the public library every day. We’d read all morning, and then on our way home, we’d stop at a splash park to cool off. I vividly remember a very hot and humid day after the park. We biked home, and I woke up on the floor. Apparently, I had fainted due to heat exhaustion, but I woke up to my mother crying and telling all the pedestrians and people that pulled over to check on us not to call the ambulance. She was scared a call could also dispatch a police officer and get us deported. This was the first time I realized that I was undocumented. The first time I realized the significance of that, I was in high school when I tried to obtain my driver’s license, and they asked for a Social Security number that I didn’t have.
Growing up in America was a bittersweet experience. I missed my close family members and their family traditions, but I also remember the endless opportunity that school provided for me, such as class resources, school field trips, tutoring, and eventually internships. I remember every holiday my mother and I would sit home alone and reminisce about our family that was back “home.”
I began to view America as a home at a very young age, but especially when I realized both my mother and I were gridlocked in this country. We could not travel back “home” or to any other country, because we were to remain in America forever (or until we received some form of citizenship). Eventually I grew to appreciate what this country stands for, what our Constitution offers, and the true definition of the American dream that my mother and I were living.
- Read through TheDream.US Scholar story-bank, featuring powerful personal reflections from Scholars about their lives, journeys, and future goals here
- Hear from two TheDream.US graduates, now working as a teacher and a nurse, discussing the impact of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program online here
- Watch a new video featuring TheDream.US college graduates online here