The Only Life I’ve Ever Known

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The following post is part of a THINKPolicy series profiling IBM Dreamers and their personal stories. Their identities have been protected for confidentiality.

I remember feeling incredibly confused.

I was just about to finish high school. I had worked hard to get my diploma. My parents hadn’t gone to college, but I knew that I wanted to. I had friends here, a life here. Growing up, I felt just like all the other kids at school.

But then I found out I couldn’t qualify for financial aid. I wasn’t eligible because I didn’t have legal immigration status, even though I had lived in America since I was six years old. Being American was the only life I knew, but now I was being told I wasn’t American—only because of a lack of paperwork.

From there, I knew my journey wouldn’t be easy. But I didn’t let that stop me from pursuing my dreams of getting a college degree. I enrolled in community college and saved up every penny I could to pay for the tuition. It took me six years to finish. There were some semesters I could only take one class because that was all I could afford—and sometimes none at all.

I never gave up, and I was so proud when I received my degree in business administration. I was the first of my family to even go to college, let alone graduate. I felt empowered. And as luck would have it, when I graduated, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was put in place.

Without DACA, I wouldn’t have been able to use my degree, because I wouldn’t have been authorized to work. After so much hard work and the financial struggles, I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to be blocked out of the opportunity to put my degree to good use, support myself, and contribute to the economy.

When I got my DACA work authorization, I felt like the doors that were open to my peers or my childhood friends their whole lives were finally open to me. I no longer felt like I was being punished for something that was out of my control.

I started working at a large employer in my state and was able to apply my business degree in practice. After about a year of working there, a friend suggested I apply to a job at IBM. I’d never imagined I’d work for a company like IBM. Just a few years before, I felt like the options available to me were so limited. Now I’m employed by a major American technology company, working in software support and helping businesses and clients tackle challenges they encountered every day.

Since joining IBM about four years ago, I’ve built a life that I worry could all be taken away when the DACA program runs out. I’ve been promoted, I’ve bought a house, I have a dog, I have family and friends here in America. It’s still the only life I have ever known.

I hope Members of Congress can pass legislation to give Dreamers like me certainty that our entire lives won’t be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. We’ve worked hard. We’ve overcome adversity, and we’ve found a way to give back to our communities, to the economy and to the country that has been our home for as long as we can remember. This country hasn’t let me down yet, and I am hopeful that leaders in Washington won’t let us down either.

IBM Dreamer stories are published regularly on THINKPolicy. Read more here

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