My name is Luis Flores. I sit next to you in class. I am undocumented. That means that I am currently living in the United States illegally, but not by choice. It also means that I am only one traffic stop away from deportation. This is my reality. My family and others like myself are not considered full participants in society despite having grown up in this country. All we ask for is an opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
I have proven myself to be hard-working and, other than my status, law abiding. Because I am undocumented, I cannot receive financial aid through the federal government nor have I been able to participate in study-abroad programs. I cannot serve as an RA or dorm senator. Above all, I can be deported at any time.
My mother gave birth to me in a hospital without electricity. My family lived in a one-room shack without plumbing. They could not make enough money to put food on the table, much less move to a better or safer home.
It was not my choice to leave Mexico. I immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 7 with my family. They wanted more for their children and that is why they brought us to this country. With only high school educations, my parents have only been able to get manual labor jobs.
Even though I have grown up in the U.S., I do not feel accepted by society. I cannot feel part of a society where laws make it a crime to be undocumented. The more I try to blend in and just be myself, the more I am reminded that I am not welcomed here.
In summers I tutor incoming freshmen at my high school. I am a Young Life leader at Rogers High School. I have been an active member of society and above all, I have contributed to this country I call home. Yet, I am an “alien” that does not belong.
I constantly fear being deported out of the country. The fear leaves me paralyzed. I also fear for my family’s safety. I have no interest in returning to Mexico where violence is getting out of control. This country is my home. I just wish I could go through everyday life without having to worry about my safety.
In my four years at Whitworth I have not been able to participate in study-abroad programs. Every time you asked me if I was planning on studying out of the country I found myself telling a lie: I am not interested. The truth is I was drowning in tears of frustration.
I wanted to go with you to experience Paris, The Great Wall of China and the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. I have done my best to get the most out of my education at Whitworth.
Finding scholarship money to help pay for tuition was an entirely different process from yours. Because of my undocumented status I was not eligible for FAFSA or any federal financial assistance. However, through perseverance, I earned my way with three different scholarships to attend this school.
Unfortunately, those scholarships only cover my Bachelor’s degree. If I decide to attend graduate school I am left to scavenge for privately funded scholarships once again. You think you are worried about jobs: I graduate knowing I will be lucky to get a job unpacking your grocery boxes or building your kitchen or mowing your lawn.
The only way I will ever feel “accepted” into society is through passage of the DREAM Act (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors). This bill will allow me and thousands of students in my situation to obtain citizenship. I feel entitled to my citizenship because I know I have earned it. The DREAM Act will take away my fear of being sent out of the country and above all, it will allow me to achieve my fullest potential.
My hope is that by this point you have gained a better perspective on why I decided to write this article. I hope you understand my story.