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Paul Parrish

Paul Parrish, 26, from California, born in South Africa.

For the last 21 years, my dad, a pastor by training, has worked any job he could find to support our family. He still struggles to make ends meet because he cannot be legally employed since he, like the rest of us, is undocumented. We first came here as tourists from South Africa. My dad tried to find legal work and change our immigration status; the church at which he worked had made promises to him and didn’t keep them. Our legal residency then expired, and times were consistently tough. One day in particular comes to mind when I think of the challenges we’ve faced as a family. One day, my dad cried as he broke open our piggy banks to pay for groceries for the week. It broke my heart, and I’ll never forget it. We lived at the mercy and kindness of others for quite some time until my dad found steady work in Santa Ana, where I grew up. Santa Ana is a city full of immigrants and I grew up in a dangerous neighborhood. Even growing up in this often scary environment, though, I was never afraid of the local street gangs or school bullies or anyone like that. Instead, I was afraid of the police; I was afraid of La Migra; I was afraid of losing the place I call home. Now my circumstances have changed, but new challenges have emerged. I now live in a community surrounded by a lot of people who hate the idea of immigration reform. They only appreciate me because they do not know I am undocumented. Being white and speaking English as my native language gives me a unique insight into pockets of deep-seeded racism in mainstream American culture. It is amazing how accepting people are when you look like one of their own, act like one of their own, speak like one of their own, but only upon revealing to them that you are undocumented do you find that those same people no longer treat you the same. My lack of papers should not mean that I don’t belong here or don’t deserve a chance. Despite bumps in the road throughout my years in school, I have always dreamed of becoming a doctor and serving low-income populations. When I saw a sign advertising TheDream.US scholarship, I knew I had to apply. Now, at Cal State University, San Bernardino, I am studying math, and my favorite classes are math theory classes. After graduating, I plan to go to medical school. I also have a job working at a Christian Camp as a maintenance worker, building, fixing, planning, and generally making things work for people. Thanks to the DACA program, I am able to work, and I hope that continues as I continue to chase my American Dream. DREAMers are among the most motivated, intelligent, and hardworking members of society; we strive for what our parents could not achieve. My brother went back to South Africa — a place neither of us have ever called home. He excelled in chemistry, physics, and mathematics here, and had very much, it seemed to me, carved out his own special place in American life. But, he was tired of being rejected and cast aside by the government and by people to whom he pledged his allegiance for over 20 years.

It was a very sad day when my brother left. My parents then placed their hopes on me for attaining the American Dream, and accomplishing what they had not been able to in their lives. This serves as my main motivation in life; I hope someday I can repay them for all that they have done for me, and I view my education as a means to do just that.