Logo for: TheDream.us

Tommy Soto

Country of Origin: Mexico

Age of Arrival: 4 years old

Hometown: Inglewood, California

Degree: Criminal Justice



I plan to major in Criminal Justice and minor in Forensic Science at California State University, Long Beach. Someday I may also get certified to become an EMT. If I lose my status, I will be devastated. I would be separated from my family and from my education- which I’ve worked extremely hard to earn- would just be thrown away.


It is extremely important for me to get my degree, not only because it’ll prove that people like me aren’t bad news, but also because it’ll prove that we came here to better ourselves. However, if I do end up getting deported at some point, having that degree will help me establish a career. This is essential, especially where I’m from, because in order to eat in my country, you need to work; if you don’t know how to do anything, you don’t get very far in life.


I want to encourage people who don’t support DACA to get to know us; we matter too, we may have the same wants, the same needs, we may even share some of the same dreams. They should listen and acknowledge the fact that some of us are working to help the US, to better ourselves and to better our families; we are working to become better people overall, we happen to come from different places, but we may be working to reach the same destination.


When I was four, I crossed the US-Mexico border for the first time. I was stopped almost immediately and taken into a room with other kids my age. The next morning, I was returned to my aunt in Mexico. We went to stay at a nearby hotel, where a man, who I later learned was my step-dad, came to visit and brought me a pink tracksuit. I wore it that same night when I tried  to cross the border, again. I was put in a car with two men I had never seen before and we drove off.


When we got to the border, however, the car was stopped by border patrol. The men were arrested, and I was taken to the station. When we got there, I saw that it was cold and empty; I was so scared. A police woman approached me and asked for my name. I remember being told to never give my real name to anyone, so instead, I gave her the alias I had been told to give. She sat me down, took off my shoes and checked all my pockets. Then, she put my shoes back on, got up, and walked away.


Back then, I thought she was huge because she seemed so tall, but now that I think back, she probably wasn’t that tall- I was just really short. I was so tired, I had to fight to keep my eyelids open. Suddenly, I felt someone wrap their arms around me and pick me up. It was the woman who had interviewed me earlier. I hadn’t been informed about this part of the trip and I panicked. As she walked away with me in her arms, I yelled, kicked and tried to free myself. I distinctly remember her saying, “Okay, Okay”, before she set me back down.


By then my eyes were wide open; I was no longer tired. My weariness was overcome by an intense fear which kept me awake, but not for long. I fell asleep for a few hours, and I woke up in a different place. It was a small apartment- white walls, a window in the far left; the only light in the room was coming from the ceiling, which was a sort of mustard color. There was a think white lady with blonde hair on the floor near the door, playing with a little boy who was maybe 1 or 2 years old. She looked over and motioned for me to join her (later on in life, I learned she was a social worker).


I played with legos, which I had never seen before. Afterwards, she told me that my dad was coming to pick me up. I remember feeling confused and thinking to myself,  I have never met my father and now he is going to come pick me up? Soon, there was a knock on the door. When she opened it, there was a Mexican man on the other side. He looked old and short. He had lots of gray hair on his beard and w wore a red flannel shirt with a brownish jacket over it and dark colored pants. He gave the social worker a yellow envelope, and we got in his pick-up truck. I asked where we were going and he said he was going to take me to my mom. I was once again confused because my mom was in another country and as far as I was concerned, I was still in Mexico. Nevertheless, I ignored the thought and looked out of the window.


I assume it was dawn, because I remember the sky; it was covered in different shades of red, yellow and orange. In the distance you could see shades of purple and blue; it was absolutely beautiful. Sometime later, I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke up, the sky was a pretty light blue color, almost like the color of the sky at noon on a sunny day.


The man told me that we had arrived. He took off my seatbelt, and, as I got out, I saw my mom. For the first time in 3 days, I was able to breathe. She took my hand and took me into her car. Then, pulled out another mysterious yellow envelope and handed it to the old man. What I didn’t know then, was that the hardest part was not over. In fact, it had just begun.


Like me, my mother is undocumented. She met my step-dad, who has a green card, a few years after she arrived. They then brought me to the US and, 8 years later, had my little sisters.

My mother had only finished elementary school, and my step-dad dropped out in 9th grade. My siblings will be in fifth grade this fall, and I will be a first-generation college student.


I always thought that I might be undocumented. However, when my mom told me reality set in. I had asked her when I would be visiting my grandparents. She then explained that I would never be able to go back because I was undocumented. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it really hit me when my grandmother died. I wanted to go visit her – to see her one more time and to say goodbye – but I knew there was no way it was going to happen. Then, when my grandfather died, I took it even harder because at the time, I was waiting for a U-visa. It made me angry. I wanted to use the visa to go visit him. I figured if I couldn’t make it to her, I’d make it to him…but I didn’t. I was really disappointed, but in a way, it pushed me to work harder. I thought if I could grow up to become someone important, then maybe I’d magically find a way to go back to my old home and still be able to come back to my new home. To this day, that is not an option.


All in all, I had a horrible experience adjusting to life in America. I arrived here not knowing what a letter or a number was, much less how to speak the language itself. It made it really hard to make friends. I cried a lot and hated school. I wanted to stay home with my mom; that way, no one would tell me anything.


Unfortunately, that was not an option. Instead, I ended up in attending numerous schools in a short period of time, until I settled for one. It was at this elementary school where I made my first friend. A boy with light skin and Harry Potter glasses. He stood by me all through kindergarten, and it was thanks to him that I liked going to school a little more. I didn’t, however, learn anything in that school. When I transferred to Felton Elementary School, my life changed. I met more people who looked like me and talked like me. It was a lot easier to make friends because there was no longer a language barrier. Soon, I started learning English. In third grade I reclassified and started getting straight A’s. My mom and the rest of my family were all really proud. I’ve been earning excellent grades ever since.


After breaking the language barrier, education became very important to me and it still is today. I am now a very outgoing, social, and confident person. I’m actually glad I struggled, because in the end, it served as encouragement. It is thanks to my education and my struggle that I enjoy helping others and giving back to those who helped me.


I began to view America as home when my little twin sisters were born. I suddenly had a more important reason to stay here. Watching them grow up has pushed me to be a better person because they look up to me. Now, I work harder and always try to do the right thing. It is important for me to stay here in the US, not only to help them go farther than me, but because I can help my family more from here than from anywhere else. My life is here, even if my family is in two distinct countries.