Abel B. – 21, Phoenix, AZ, Born in Mexico City

I know what it’s like to put myself at risk, to fight for something to improve my life and the lives of thousands of others, against overwhelming odds, and win. I was one of the plaintiffs in the case that got Arizona’s university system to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students – young people like me who’d lived here all our lives and couldn’t afford to get a college education if we had to pay three times what state residents paid. It took the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and so many supporters to make this change but I’m happy to say I helped make history. And now I’m able to attend Arizona State where I’m majoring in marketing while interning in my field in marketing research. I hope to someday get my MBA and open my own ad agency. Being allowed to pay in-state tuition will make all this possible.

It all started with DACA and my 2012 successful application which allowed me to take advanced community college classes while still in high school. Arizona’s community colleges already offered in-state tuition to undocumented students, but the state universities put a four-year degree out of reach for most of us because in-state tuition wasn’t available until our lawsuit.

I came to the States as a toddler and don’t remember much of anything before my life here in Phoenix. I live with my parents to be able to afford college. I have two brothers and a sister, all of whom were born in Arizona and are U.S. citizens. My parents will be eligible for DAPA if it is upheld by the Supreme Court. My mom has worked for the same couple for 14 years and they volunteered to help with my college tuition while my parents provide money for books and expenses. I’m truly fortunate that I can concentrate on my studies and intern in my field. My family has always made my education a top priority.

I’m an asset to this country because I work to make my community better. I stand up for my rights and help others do the same. I see myself as a leader and helped establish a business marketing club in my high school under DECA, an organization recognizing the world’s emerging leaders. I also introduced the same concept to my community college. I competed on an international level in DECA and was the chapter president for two years and have served as the state vice president this past year.

I’m working hard at educating myself, at improving my community and acting as an ambassador for the Undocumented. You can’t talk about me as an impersonal number once you meet me and know my story. I change hearts and minds about immigration just by being who I am. I love this country and want to make it better. This is where I belong. It’s the only home I know. I can’t understand why some want to hold back all the incredible potential of immigrants, why they’d deny an education or a driver’s license to those of us who are struggling every day to earn our citizenship, to make a positive difference.

Though I can’t vote, I’m active in the democratic process and have been registering those who can vote since 2010. Living in Arizona is hard with new immigrant hate bills being introduced in the legislature all the time. It makes for much uncertainty about the future and anxiety about acceptance. However, I will continue with my education and my community activism for social justice. In the fight for in-state tuition, I came to believe that immigration reform was possible and I will hold onto that belief and work to make it a reality.

Edison S. – 29, Saratoga Springs, Utah, Born in Ecuador

No matter how much success I enjoy or education I attain, I always see myself as an immigrant, someone who is both proud of his roots and striving to prove his right to belong in America. As a clinical molecular biologist technologist, I examine human specimens to detect cancer and I treat all the specimens the same – the person’s race, gender, religion or country of origin from the specimens are not important. What matters is detecting the cancer early and getting the report right so that treatment can be prescribed. The patients, whose specimens I’m examining, don’t care where I was born; they just want me to be good at my job.

This is how I wish all of us treated each other and this is how I live my life. I work through my Mormon faith to promote tolerance in my community and also have taught others in a spiritual way when I had the chance to serve my church. Family is everything to me and my faith is very personal since it helped my father find himself when he didn’t have a spiritual path back home.

I have lived in the States most of my life having been brought here with my sister and infant brother when I was just a young teenager. We overstayed our tourist visa because my parents wanted a better life for their three children. Now that I have an infant daughter of my own, I completely understand their decision. I would do anything to ensure her safety and well-being.

My parents, though now permanent residents, have worked hard all their lives to provide for their family. My mom still works seven days a week cleaning hotel rooms and my father works two jobs six days a week. They barely make minimum wage but they persevere for their children, and we are doing our best to make them proud.

I have two bachelor’s degrees in biology and biotechnology. I also have an MS in animal science with a molecular biology focus. My sister has a BA and my brother is doing well in high school and in his jobs.

When I first entered ESL classes in middle school, I didn’t know any English. By the time I graduated high school, I had earned a 3.99 GPA, grades that got me into Utah State with a full scholarship. When I graduated with two degrees, I still had no real future because I was undocumented. But DACA changed my life. I had been working in hotels to earn a living, but with a work permit, I was welcomed into the animal science department at Utah State where I got a chance to earn my master’s as I studied the characterization and potential utility of porcine trophoblast derived stem-like cells- an invaluable opportunity for my future work with humans. I had the best mentors in the field, which I consider a blessing, and I will always be grateful to them. I was even invited to continue in the doctoral program, but I was getting married and wanted to be able to earn the money needed to support a family.

My marriage is a dream come true after four years of a long-distance relationship. I first met my wife-to-be when she was in the States visiting her uncle who was a recruiter for Utah State. It was love at first sight, but she had to return to Mexico and we could only see each other when we could afford flights for her to visit. She was in her second year of law school in Mexico when she obtained a student visa and we are now together. She is continuing to work on her law degree, even if we have to pay international tuition which is very expensive. We have just bought a home and have started our family.

For the past three years, I’ve worked for ARUP Laboratories, an American national reference laboratory affiliated with the University of Utah. It is here that I’m a clinical molecular biology technologist.

It appears I’m living the American Dream. I have always believed that if I worked hard and lived a good life, I could earn my citizenship. Some of my undocumented friends married American citizens to get green cards. I would never do that. I married for love.

I am paying my way, buying a home, covering my wife’s college and my daughter’s birth. I am giving back to my community and encouraging people to be their best selves. I wish that those who are anti-immigration would look at what immigrants have contributed to this country, how much all of us add to the prosperity of the nation.

We may come with just what we can carry but it’s not what we own that matters. It’s what’s in our hearts, our determination to overcome all obstacles and to not give up. This is what makes America strong – the sacrifices and potential of the endless line of immigrants. I’m proud to have taken my place with all those who have gone before, but I am always uncertain about my family’s future, especially with all the threatening political rhetoric. My life is here – my immediate family, my church and my work. My extended family is still in Ecuador and I haven’t been able to see them for 17 years, but this is all part of the sacrifice made to live life in America. All I want is acceptance, a chance to show that I make a positive difference in this country and a path to citizenship that will grant me some much needed certainty about my future. I know that if I’m just given the opportunity to stay, I will be as American as anyone born here.

Jose Jason H. – 22, Long Beach, CA, Born in Mexico

I’ve begun my degree in environmental engineering as I get on-the-job training at the L.A. County Sanitation District, where I’ve been employed for the past three years. It’s hard working full-time and going to school, but I have big plans.

Thanks to DACA, I can build a real future. President Obama’s one executive order changed my life. It lifted me out of limbo and depression and allowed me to pursue my dreams like my peers who were starting college and careers. Even though I’d graduated with honors from high school, I had nowhere to go except to scrounge for menial jobs that paid little. With my DACA work permit, I was able to attain an entry-level position as a sweeper at county where my management and computer skills have made it possible for me to advance to waste operator and inspector, now supervising others. There is even the possibility that my employer may help with my tuition at Rio Hondo College in the future. I never dared to believe I could work at something I loved, that I could continue to be promoted as I acquired new skills and more education.

My aunt, who has been my real mom, brought me to the States when I was four. She rescued me when I was sick and living in poverty. She also brought my three sisters, so she saved our family. I continue to live with my aunt and cherish her immensely.

I’m saving for a home and want to build a life with my childhood sweetheart, Lizbeth. She has always encouraged me to continue my education as she pursues her studies. Lizbeth has just graduated from UCLA and is currently exploring the top law schools in the country.

I stay in touch with my mom, dad and three sisters but my aunt is the one who has made me into the person I’ve become. She has set me on my path and has been there for me through everything, even the loss of my U.S.-born, 19-year-old brother. She has always believed in me.

With DACA, I’m working hard to attain the American Dream. In my heart, I’m as American as anyone who was born here. I’m a leader and an agent for change. I have benefitted from the help of others and I believe it is my duty to give back. My life, my family, my work and my college are here. I’m not giving up all this, no matter who runs the country, though the political rhetoric is disconcerting. I’ve earned my place in the U.S. and I will overcome the uncertainty of politics with the knowledge that I am making a positive difference, like so many immigrants who have come before.

Dan V. – 26, Seattle, WA, Born in Mexico

I’m just starting my career and believe that if I work hard, I’ll be successful. Now I put in 10-hour days in sales and marketing for an international car rental company. I have lived in the States more than half my life, long enough to believe that I can do well if I put forth the effort.

This belief is what drove me to get my college degree in political science. I graduated in 2013 from the University of Washington – on my own with no financial aid. Now I’m exploring the corporate world to see how far I can go. At some point, I’d like to teach at a college, but there is time for me to find my niche and there are many career paths open to me.

Though I’ve had no official mentor, I look to successful Latinos as role models for my direction. I want to make a difference and become a better person as I pursue my career. I’m always aware of how much my parents sacrificed to bring me and my sister to this country. They believed in fresh starts and second chances and so do I.

Since I was brought to the U.S. when I was 11, I qualified for DACA and have used my deferred status to find better employment. But DACA is not enough. I love this country, and through my struggle to make a life here, I truly appreciate all the opportunities afforded me. I earn my way and believe I’m as American as those who are born here. I just don’t have the right papers. It’s a hard thing to tell people that I’m not legal. How can a person not be legal? I have done nothing wrong. Most don’t understand my situation, and at this point, I really don’t understand the concept myself — this ongoing limbo status that keeps me forever uncertain about my place in this country. I believe I’ve earned my citizenship and that I should be recognized for my accomplishments and contributions.

Luis R. – 28, Santa Ana, CA, Born in Celeya, Mexico

When I came to the States with my brother, I was only 12. At that time, I had only one desire – to reunite with my parents who were already living here. I flew to Tijuana and my brother and I crossed the border in a car with people we had met. No one asked me anything. I would have had had no answers for authorities that would have helped my case. I was a kid missing my mom and dad. It was that simple.

For five years, we made a life together in Santa Ana. I had my family. I was home as far as I was concerned. When I was 17, my parents and siblings moved to Illinois, but I chose to remain in California where, as I graduated from high school, I began to realize that I was different from many of my classmates. I didn’t have the right papers to apply for college aid, to drive, to get a job. I was very much on my own and undocumented. My future was beyond uncertain but I didn’t give up. I was determined to go to college.

When DACA was announced, I applied and was accepted. With deferred action, I could breathe. I could plan. I was able to find better work and got a job at the Orange County Environmental Health Department where I process requests for environmental studies. Working full-time while going to school, I’ve earned two associate degrees, one in liberal arts and the other in TV video production. Now in my second semester at Cal State Fullerton, I’m working toward a BA in business administration. I’m very interest in technology, as well as pursuing management opportunities with my current employer.

DACA has given me some peace of mind but it has to be renewed every few years and there is always the uncertainty about the processing time, the political climate and the burden of its costs. It is not enough – this permanent limbo. When my dear grandmother was dying, I applied for advanced parole through DACA to return to Mexico to be with her. The bureaucracy took too long and my abuela was gone before I arrived. I didn’t get to see her to say goodbye and it broke my heart.

With all the hardships and uncertainty of being undocumented, I continue to earn my way and improve my skills. I’m also active in helping others and working for social justice, especially in the LGBT community.  My advocacy expands beyond immigration reform to fighting for human rights for all. Whatever I do, I do from the heart because I care, because every human being matters, because it’s the right thing to do.

Rosa H. – 19, Tulsa, OK, Born in Mexico

I was really lucky to attend a high school with a strong tradition of acceptance. Booker T. Washington High was one of the first to be integrated during the civil rights movement. Even though I didn’t have DACA when I graduated in 2014, counselors and teachers were very helpful to me. In fact, they guided me through the DACA process so I could qualify and get a work permit, driver’s license and Social Security number.

With the necessary papers, I was able to find a job at a local plant nursery in May 2015. I like the work and I’m learning a lot. It’s calming being immersed in nature, in helping grow things.

My mom brought my older brother and me to the States when I was four. She doesn’t like to talk about the trip and I don’t remember it. I live with my mom and near my five siblings, four of whom were born in this country. I grew up helping take care of my brothers and sisters while my mom worked.

Family is everything to me. We manage because we take care of each other and work hard. I’d like to attend college to study psychology. I want to help others. I somehow remain hopeful, always looking on the bright side, despite the ugly anti-immigrant political rhetoric. My brother and I attended a Bernie Sanders rally recently. Though we can’t vote, we can work for candidates and support registration efforts.  Perhaps, someday we will be given the rights we’re earning every day.

I’ve always been anxious and perhaps it comes from living with so much uncertainty for so many years. At least now, my brother and I have DACA, but my mom and so many others still worry about what will happen next. In fact, we all worry about this because though deferred action is most welcome, it’s not a permanent solution. It’s not residency or citizenship. But it does give me hope.

Italia G. – 25, Riverside, CA, Born in Mexico

I feel like I’m making a difference in my work at Mi Familia Vota. As a regional coordinator, I act as a community organizer to heighten civic engagement on a multitude of issues. In this election year, I’m focused on registering Latino voters and will help turn out the vote in November.  It’s up to people like me to make sure all of us understand the importance of voting, especially millennials who aren’t exercising the clout they have.

I’m very interested in local government and got my BA in political science with a minor in women’s studies. I first attended Riverside College and then graduated from UC Riverside. Only in my last year of college was I able to get in-state tuition and some financial aid. It really made a difference.

I first volunteered at Mi Familia Vota as an organizer and canvasser before being hired. It was a good way for me to learn about the organization and to support its efforts. I know I’m where I should be, doing what I love. My future will be in nonprofits or public service, wherever I can do the most good. My focus is local but the impact I hope to have reaches beyond local to national issues, especially immigration reform.

DACA transformed my life because now I can get on with my future. Before DACA I felt very uncertain about my future, though I tried to keep positive and productive. I can now make plans with access to school, work, credit and driving. I can take advantage of so many opportunities that the U.S. offers. I can give back to my community and make my parents proud. And they are proud of me. It is my way of thanking them for all they sacrificed to give me a chance at a better life.

I came to the States when I was 10. My brother, who was five, and I were in a car with another family while my mom walked across the border. We had been stranded in Tijuana for a month, trying to get the help we needed to make the crossing. It was a stressful time – all the uncertainty. We just wanted to reunite with my father who was already in California. And we finally got through and have been here ever since.

Family is important to me and I’m fortunate to live near my parents. My brother, who also qualified for DACA, is going to college. I’ve started my own family and my wife and I have been married for four months after being together for almost four years.

There is so much to do in helping formulate humane immigration policy and it starts and ends with getting the Undocumented immigrant community to take action, in believing that we can change minds and rewrite laws. I plan on continuing to do my part.

Teresa C. – 24, El Monte, CA, Born in Mexico

I was only eight years old when I came to the United States. This is when my life changed forever. I honestly don’t know how it even happened, but after being denied our visas several times, my mom simply decided we were going to come to the States to reunite with my father and older siblings — no matter what. The decision was made on Monday, and by Wednesday, we had left our home in Sahuayo, Michoacan and traveled to Guadalajara to catch a bus to Nogales. I wasn’t really aware of the significance of this trip. All I knew was that I was going to reunite with my father and older siblings.

I had no idea of the dangers that lay ahead. On the way to Nogales, our bus was stopped by federales who attempted to kidnap my sister because their captain thought she was very attractive. When my mom stood up to this police captain, she was thankfully joined by fellow passengers and we were allowed to continue our journey. Our tentative situation became clear at that moment.  My mom was trying to get me and my three siblings across the border with fake visas. The questioning by an immigration officer made us all very nervous. We just knew we’d be sent back or land in jail.  After several days, we were able to cross and then we were separated for a few days. We didn’t eat or drink for three days waiting to be taken home. When we finally arrived in El Monte, CA, we realized that the very difficult crossing into the States was just the beginning of our challenges where we had to adapt to a new country, learn the language and live with the fear of being deported because we were undocumented.

I’ve lived in this country for the last 16 years, twice as long as I lived in Mexico. El Monte is my home. I see myself as much more than a person without papers. I’m a daughter, a sister, friend, girlfriend. I’m a student with ambitious goals. I’m a fighter.

My family is together. All my five siblings are married now and have started their own families, but we are together and will never forget our struggles to get where we are now. I qualified for DACA as did one of my siblings, but another missed the age requirement by one year so the DACA extension, included in President Obama’s second executive order, would be very welcome.

DACA has truly changed my life in many ways. I applied right away. It gave me the opportunity to seek better employment with a work permit and Social Security card. I’m able to grow professionally, not be resigned to factory work, which was my fate before DACA. I now work at UCLA at Mt. SAC in the Dream program, which serves undocumented students. I have a driver’s license and can drive to classes and work. In the fall, I plan to apply for law school. My goal is to become an immigration attorney.

With DACA, I can live my life without fear of deportation, though I still worry about others in my family. I can pursue my education and career goals. I can give back to my community. My heritage is Mexican, but my life is here in the States with my family. I must validate my parents’ dreams for me and make all their sacrifices on my behalf worthwhile. I am much more than Undocumented; I’m a woman full of dreams and achievements — determined to realize my potential and be the kind of American this country needs.

Alma G. – 28, Petaluma, CA, Born in Mexico City

Family is everything to me so I’m fortunate in being surrounded by my parents, siblings, grandmother and uncles. Having such a close family has made me really appreciate my own family, now that I have a seven-year-old son, Jonatan. What worries me is that my parents are not protected from deportation as I am under DACA. They would qualify for DAPA if the Supreme Court rules in favor of President Obama’s executive order. Until such time, there is always the concern that their future may be jeopardized.

I lived with this uncertainty myself for almost two decades until I applied for DACA, which gave me a tremendous sense of security and allowed me to have a future – finding better employment and completing my education.

I’m working and going back to school at Santa Rosa Junior College. My goal is a degree in business administration and I’m getting on-the-job training from my boss who is a financial advisor. He is mentoring me and paying for educational seminars to help me advance in my field.

I appreciate the sacrifices my parents made to bring me to the U.S. 22 years ago when I was just a child. They have worked hard all their lives for their children and I want to make them proud. My grandfather attained residency before he died and the family was able to bury him here. He is the much admired family patriarch who blazed the trail for us.

I believe I have a real future with a child to raise and much to accomplish. I have already overcome a lot with the support of my family.  I give back to my community as a notary. I make it my mission to share what I know to help others and to advocate for living life with a purpose undeterred by fear. I’m grateful for the opportunities the U.S. provides, but I have made my own way and continue to earn my citizenship every day.

Sergio Angel, 26, Riverside, CA, Born in Mexico

I came to the States as a three-month-old baby so this country is the only home I’ve ever known. I currently live with my parents as I continue my education. I have four brothers, three of them were born in the U.S., but I’m the first to go to college in my family.

My dream is to become a firefighter and I’m in my second year of studying fire technology at Moreno Valley College. I applied for DACA in 2014 but haven’t received notice of deferred action. This means more uncertainty. I must track down my application and get this reprieve so I can finish school and start my firefighter training, as well as certification courses for EMT. Since I graduated from high school in California, I’m eligible for AB 540 so I qualify for in-state tuition and some other financial aid but I’m working my way through school. I keep my focus on my goals but I live in constant fear of being deported.

I think my life experience, my education and my bilingual skills will make me a good firefighter. I know I must work hard to be successful. I’ve chosen a career where I can really help people – saving lives and protecting property — especially here in California where fire is a constant threat. I am earning my citizenship every day and all I want is an opportunity to get my education and to give back to my community as a firefighter.