Photo: Image Courtesy of Iliana Perez
There are 12 million undocumented immigrants living in America.They are not just criminals that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials seek to remove as quickly as possible.
Many of them speak English, have lived in the U.S. for years and even raised children here. They identify themselves as Americans, but they can never really feel at home.
Sometimes they feel safer in the spotlight of activism where supporters and friends will rally behind them if the threat of deportation arises. We spoke to six of these immigrants.
Iliana Guadalupe Perez and her family moved to the U.S. in 1995, when she was just eight years old. She, her parents, and her brother settled in the Central Valley in Southwest California. Her father found work in agriculture and they lived in a cramped apartment with at least six other people. 'We all came on a tourist visa. My dad was able to file for a tourist visa for all of us, which expired a few months after we arrived here,
Ingrid has a degree in industrial engineering from Stanford, but she is stuck working for a landscaping company
When Ingrid was little her father traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Guatemala. When she was nine years old, her family obtained a visa to come visit her uncle who lived here for a while. Or so she thought.
It wasn't until she was being enrolled in school that Ingrid realised what was happening and that she and her family were moving to the U.S. for good.
Everyone in her family is undocumented, except for her baby brother who was born last year and is a U.S. citizen. In addition to her brother, she had two sisters as well. She laughs at the notion that her brother is an anchor baby, since he was unplanned and her parents were planning on moving back to Guatemala after her sister finished college.
'I think the assumption of anchor babies is ridiculous. It takes 21 plus years to get the child to sponsor you,' she adds.
Ingrid, 22, graduated last June from Stanford with a degree in industrial engineering, with focus on technology. Along with two other undocumented immigrants, she attended the university on a full merit-based scholarship. Currently, she helps manage a cooperative with 14 employees that does cleaning and landscaping. 'It's not what I envisioned I would be doing after graduation,' she says.
While her community has been really supportive, going to college posed a challenge since 'people there were not exposed to undocumented immigrants.' Like most undocumented youth, Ingrid found college 'difficult and even emotionally draining because I had to think about what I was going to do after graduation.'
She currently lives in the Bay Area in California and pays taxes through her tax identification number. She says she tries to stay determined and hopeful.
'I think the most frustrating thing for me is not a question of what I can do, but of what limits the society has placed on what I can do.
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