Garfield Senior High School

Who are you?

As a senior in high school, applying for college has become my first and ultimate priority. As times change, colleges have given more consideration to an applicant’s persona than just their grades.

Personal statements have become personal insight questions and are more intimate than just SAT scores and your GPA. This poses a new challenge for students who have to answer the hardest possible question: Who are you?

There are many answers for this question, from personality to where you were raised and ultimately where you were born. Although they may seem simple, defining who you are at a time when your life is just starting is difficult. Especially when you aspire to become a first generation college student while being a first generation immigrant.

Parents, that’s where many U.S. immigration stories begin. You often hear them start with, “My parents brought me when I was 2” or “My parents brought me while my mother was pregnant.” The former are unlucky because they weren’t born in the United States and therefore have a giant hurdle to jump– gaining their legal status in order to reach success.

My own parents decided that there was a better future in the United states than in my country. So, at 3 years old, I was brought to the United States. This one decision, one which many had no consent in, re-wrote thousands of other futures, including my own.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 27% of California’s population was made up of foreign-born immigrants in 2015. This makes California home to the largest immigrant population in the United states. Around 10 million people in California are immigrants, and from those 10 million people, 80% are working age adults (age 18 – 64). That means that around 20% are under 18, many still in school, hoping for a better future by pursuing a higher education and earning a degree.

But this means writing their entire lives on paper. These undocumented students have to explain who they are as people and why they have become who they are. So what happens when who you are defined by a word that holds an incredible amount of power over a person?

Being an immigrant and being unafraid to be called so is one of the hardest things I have had to face. A giant risk is taken when you “come out” because there are uncertainties on what the future holds, especially in times as tough as these. When America suddenly needs to “become great again” and forget that this is just as much of a home as it is to anyone that was born here. We saw our cities, counties, and nation change. We saw our friends, and family grow older on our backyards and in our schools. Roots have been placed and grown in the home that we have been raised in, and now our future is in peril.

In early September, the Trump administration made the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. Established by the Obama administration, this program helped defer the deportations of almost 800,000 immigrants since its inception. The program gave the same number of people access to a work permit that helped them practice a profession that they pursued in college. With it’s end, many who could have or were in the process of applying for DACA are now brought to a stuttering halt. Hope for thousands of students like me, raised to value their education as an opportunity for success have come to the realization that deportation is a possibility.

However, I am not afraid of who I am.

A Latina. An American. I was raised in East Los Angeles by my hard-working grandmother, my patient grandfather, my diligent father, and my overprotective older brothers. My family has taught me that honesty and integrity, along with humbleness go a long way and will help me as I move forward into the future.

Certain circumstances have made me the person I am today and I wouldn’t change the decisions I or the people around me have made for the benefit of my future. And I will continue to pursue my education, no matter what consequences may come my way.