Silvia Rodriguez* stares pensively at the writing on the board of her English class.
She blends in with the rest of her classmates in the same way everyone else does in a suburban high school classroom. Aside from physical appearance, there’s nothing really quite different about anyone. Rodriguez, dark haired, wearing a floral print dress with quiet mannerisms, is different from her classmates in a different sense. She worries about something that most of her classmates probably don’t even think about – documents, a green card and American citizenship.
Rodriguez was brought to the United States at the age of 5, her sixth birthday “followed twenty days later” she points out with a smile on her face. Her story is similar to that of many young undocumented immigrants in the sense that it was done for goals that would be otherwise unattainable or harder to obtain in their native country. In Rodriguez’s family’s case, it was done for her father’s work. Her dad left Mexico to find work across the border, and after awhile realized there was no way it was possible to leave his daughter and wife behind without him. So Rodriguez and her mother traveled to the United States shortly after.
At the age of 5, most people are getting ready to adjust to Kindergarten or learning how to tie their shoes. Rodriguez on the other hand was adjusting to a new country and preparing to learn a new language. This is not rare either, there are dozens upon dozens of young immigrants that are brought to this country and immersed in the culture before they can even write their names or learn their ABC’s. They’re raised and brought up in America only knowing this country as their home, and they are fully aware that the reason behind their families move to the United States holds a significant purpose. Flash-forward 12 years later and the little girl that learned her ABC’s in the United States and how to spell her name in the United States is asked to leave because she doesn’t hold “proper documents.” She’s not an American Citizen by law, despite being raised and brought up in the very country that wants her out.
Deferred Action and What it Means:
On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Napolitano announced that any eligible undocumented immigrant would be able to apply, avoid deportation and receive a work permit for up to two years. Those that are qualified as eligible must have immigrated to the US before they turned 16, are high school graduates, college students, be serving or have served in the military. They must also be 30 years or younger and have no serious criminal record. The paperwork includes a $465 fee which covers the cost of fingerprints and the work permit processing. Although the process is significantly long and consuming, students like Rodriguez have rejoiced over the opportunity because of the great impact it will have on their lives.
Deferred Action and College:
Rodriguez, like many other young undocumented students, was preparing for Kindergarten when she first arrived in the US . Now, yet again, Rodriguez finds herself at another academic chapter in her life: applying to college. Rodriguez sites that it’s difficult to focus on something she’s been told will have a major affect on her life. Deferred action, which will also have a substantial impact on her life, is just as time consuming. What young student immigrants are expected to do now is balance two of the most important decisions and applications of their lives at the same time. It’s hard to tell which one rings more importance when both will have a significant impact on their futures. Most students realize though, that obtaining a work permit serves as a benefit towards applying to college. “I’ll be able to apply for jobs that’ll help me with money for college. Beyond that, it makes it possible for me to actually apply to college,” Rodriguez says. Undocumented students have to worry not only about getting an impressive ACT score, but they also have to balance their academic life by making sure they’re able to stay in a country they’ve lived in their whole lives.
Rodriguez doesn’t say much in her English class. She’s set on paying attention and not missing any details. She doesn’t look any different from her classmates and she doesn’t act any differently from them either. The only difference is that Rodriguez is silently fighting for her right to have both higher education and her home in the US.
*Silvia Rodriguez wishes to remain anonymous. Her name has been masked as Silvia Rodriguez instead of her real name.