Enrique C. –  21, Austin, Texas, Born in Mexico

I’m passionate about what I do because I’m able to see the direct impact I make on people’s lives. I work as an advocate for immigrants in a nonprofit and a private law firm. Though I don’t yet have a law degree, I’m an accredited representative and can guide clients through the complicated legal process. In the nonprofit, I head two departments: one focuses on securing DACA documentation and another concentrates on U visas for undocumented crime victims. I also help with special juvenile petitions and family petitions, mainly for same-sex couples. Though I can’t argue a case in court, I can provide clients with the legal tools their attorneys need to present their cases.

I’ve always known I wanted to work in immigrant advocacy. Having graduated valedictorian of my high school, I was able to secure scholarships to attend Texas A&M and graduated in two and a half years while working two jobs to cover costs and repay a loan to bridge scholarship gaps. DACA’s enactment in 2012 made much of this possible. It gave me hope for a future and enough independence to live on my own, to reside in a dorm and to secure work on campus.

Until DACA, I had made myself believe that someday I could reach the goals I set for myself, even though my undocumented status meant my goals weren’t realistic. I kept working toward these goals, graduating with a B.A. in political science from Texas A&M when I was only 20. Pursuing a law degree, I attended a private college for a semester but had to drop out when I couldn’t cover the $53,000 needed for my first year of schooling. Even if I’d had the money and gotten my juris doctorate, my being undocumented prevented my acceptance to the Texas Bar Association.

I came to the States when I was six with my mom and dad, my older sister and twin brother. We overstayed our visas and pinned our hopes on a pending family petition sponsored by my citizen grandfather. My mom applied for residency in 1999 but my grandfather has since died, dissolving her petition. However, she may re-file with another family sponsor and her original date will be counted when calculating her wait time. The immigration process was painfully slow before 9/11 and has become even more of an ordeal since then.

Reform is vital to the 11-million Undocumented like me and to the country as a whole if it is to realize the full potential of all the people who live, work and raise their families here. Family is very important to me and the daily struggle of being undocumented has helped make us closer. We came for a better life and we have built one for ourselves and our community.

While my family’s petition for residency has been languishing in bureaucratic limbo, I am working to help others. I travel to various judicial districts for my clients and I have also been assigned to help train staff in Mexican immigrant shelters. DACA’s advanced parole allows me to cross the border to study and evaluate cases there. What’s more, I get to visit family in Mexico, some of whom I haven’t seen in 15 years.

I fight for social justice and I provide the knowledge and experience needed for those lost in the system. I love this country and want to make it better by ensuring that it values its proud immigrant history and finds new ways to accommodate and welcome those of us still waiting to take our rightful place in an America that will