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Pamela Benitez

Country of Origin: Paraguay

Age of Arrival: 5 years

Hometown : Flushing. NY

Degree: women and gender studies


Parts of my family’s story echo those of millions of immigrants over the years: the underpaid overworking jobs; the struggle to make ends meet; the chase for a false and nonexistent American dream.

My dad has a JD in Paraguay, but works in construction here in New York. My mom has a degree in pharmacy and biochemistry, but works as a domestic employee. Both my parents sacrificed their careers that they worked hard to obtain in order to come to America. It’s very heartbreaking to think about how they ended up doing the jobs they worked hard to escape from. We also have no family in the U.S. so it’s pretty lonely sometimes, making it difficult to not regret certain decisions.

In high school, I became close to some teachers who were really understanding and supportive about my immigration status and my home life, and were like the family I missed out on. If it weren’t for my college counselor and my AP calculus teacher I would have never been able to go through the college process. They kept me from going off the edge each time I encountered a obstacle in my applications which related to my status. Without them, I sometimes doubt I would have even graduated.

The best part of going to a liberal arts school in NYC is that there are so many opportunities and activities to try out if you really look. In such a diverse city, there’s always a space that you can find to call your own, and I’m glad that I was able to do that on campus. Coming from a small high school, that was one of my biggest concerns. My favorite classes at Hunter College are all my women and gender studies classes.

Eventually, I would like to become a social worker and set up clinic that caters specifically to immigrant communities. Right now, I’m part of my school’s Dream Team and I will continue to work with the club in order to establish a safe environment for undocumented students on campus.

I am really open about my undocumented status and would like to encourage other, younger DREAMers that they can make it too. They should breathe deeply and know that it gets better. As long as they keep the fight going we are unstoppable.

As of now, it’s hard to say that I consider America a home, because in a home you feel safe. But at the same time, this country is all I know, so I’ve been in the weird sense of homelessness for a while. Undocumented people are still people and we deserve to have the same opportunities as everyone else. No one should have to live their life in constant fear.