Living the American Dream: Hareth Andrade

Living the Dream-01 (2)Hareth Andrade planned to go to college ever since she was a little girl. She just never imagined the challenges that she would face in getting there. Hareth arrived in the United States without her parents at an early age, and it was years before she would see them again. They stayed behind in Bolivia, hoping that their daughter would have better opportunities in the United States.

With time, Hareth adapted to her new reality and excelled in school. She attended Washington High School in Arlington, Virginia, where she took Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes.

Hareth, with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, at a celebration recognizing DREAMers of Virginia’s efforts in pushing for access to in-state tuition

Hareth, with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, at a celebration recognizing DREAMers of Virginia’s efforts in pushing for access to in-state tuition

Hareth worked hard and her future looked bright. But one day, while visiting a University of Virginia camp for high school students interested in science, she learned that she would face challenges in pursuing her dreams because she was undocumented. Like many DREAMers, even though she worked hard and felt as American as her peers, she didn’t have the paperwork to prove it.

Hareth explained, “I had heard about Social Security numbers, but I didn’t know what that was. We didn’t talk about it at home. One of the panelists was talking about financial aid and Social Security numbers. I was puzzled, so I asked, ‘What if someone doesn’t have a Social Security number?’ The response was something I did not expect. It felt like a slap in the face.”

Given her accomplishments in school and her talents, Hareth’s opportunities seemed endless. However, after discovering the barriers to higher education that her undocumented status posed, she felt uncertain about her future. Thanks to the inspiration from her guidance counselor, Hareth realized that she could use her talents to push for policy change, so she started advocating for Congress to allow students like her, who had grown up in the U.S., to continue their education and pursue their dreams in the country they call home.

After graduating from high school, Hareth, along with other students, founded DREAMers of Virginia, an organization that has led efforts to provide access to in-state tuition for people who came to the United States as children and graduated from high school in Virginia.

She remembers when President Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Hareth applied in the summer of 2012 and shortly after received her documents, including her work permit, in the mail. “The day I got the card, I called my mom crying, and I told her, ‘Mom, it’s happening! I am going to do all these things I want to do.’”

Now Hareth’s life has changed in ways large and small. “Before it was so limiting,” she said. “One time I could not get into the movie theater to watch the newest Harry Potter movie. I had to show ID to prove I was 18 years old, but since the movie theater staff didn’t take my student ID and I had no state-issued ID, I was not let in. When I held DACA in my hands, it meant so much to me.”

Since receiving DACA, Hareth transferred from community college to Trinity Washington University, where she is pursuing a degree in international affairs. She expects to graduate next year and obtain a job in that field.

Thanks to DACA, there is a clear path for young people like Hareth to enter the workforce. “Applying for jobs has felt like an accomplishment. Writing my Social Security number on a piece of paper felt like an accomplishment. My entire life has been based on this number.”

Hareth has continued to advocate for opportunities for her peers. In 2014, DREAMers of Virginia was instrumental in securing access to in-state tuition in Virginia. Today DACA recipients are eligible to pay in-state tuition at some of Virginia’s colleges and universities, keeping higher education within reach.

When asked what she would like to see next, Hareth said, “I would like to see my parents included in DAPA [Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents]. These programs shape lives. Our society can’t exclude the people who help the most. Otherwise we are not helping our country move forward.”

Living In Fear of Losing My Best Friend

Hanging in the balance-01

By Brenda

As a teacher, I have seen firsthand the devastation families suffer due to deportation. About 4.5 million U.S.-citizen children have a parent who is undocumented. Every day, these children fear that their parent or parents may not be there when they come home from school. The emotional toll of having a parent deported impacts these children both emotionally and academically. Parents usually make the decision for their children to continue attending school in the United States, as they know education is paramount for success in life. I often pose the question to my students, “How many of you have heard your parents tell you to go to school and study hard so you do not have to work as hard as I do?” In 17 years as an educator I have never had a student fail to raise her or his hand. Deported parents often make the supreme sacrifice of leaving their children in the United States in the hope that they will have a better quality of life.

Immigration reform would ensure that families can live without the anxiety of having a loved one taken from them. That is why we need legislation that would permanently provide a solution. However, since Congress has failed to pass legislation, President Obama should do everything that he can to make sure that millions of hardworking immigrants with strong ties to the United States come forward, register with the government, work legally, and pay their fair share of taxes.

This would include my husband. We have been married for nine years and have not been able to regularize his immigration status. My husband is an amazing man with much to offer this country. He regularly volunteers with a local nonprofit organization as well as with the Humane Society. He is a productive member of society; however, I live in fear that he could be detained.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with stage Forward Graphicfour breast cancer. My husband was my primary care giver through chemotherapy, surgery, and months of radiation treatment. He attended each and every one of my appointments. My husband tended to me when I was too weak to get myself a glass of water. His care was instrumental in my ability to overcome the disease for which I still receive monthly treatment. I cannot imagine my life without him. President Obama must act so that I could live without the fear of losing my best friend and partner in life.

Loving Couples Forced to Make Impossible Choices

Hanging in the balance-01

By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR 

In this week’s edition of “Hanging in the Balance,” we meet a young couple whose dreams of living happily ever after were turned upside down because of the United States’ dysfunctional immigration laws.

As reported by Fusion, Rachel Custodio and her husband Paulo are just one of more than one million mixed-status couples where one is a citizen or permanent resident and one is an aspiring American. If one faces deportation, his or her significant other must face the impossible choice our current immigration system forces upon thousands of families: should the permanent resident leave the United States and follow his or her deported spouse, or stay behind and attempt to maintain a relationship from half a world away?

Advocacy Central Need Action1-1Four years ago, Rachel, a U.S. citizen, packed up her life in Boston and took a one-way flight to Brazil. She couldn’t speak Portuguese. She wasn’t traveling to a new job. As so many other husbands and wives have done, Rachel was leaving the United States for the first time to be with her deported husband.

Rachel and Paulo met in Boston back in 2005 and were married by 2009. She knew that Paulo lacked immigration status since he had entered the country by crossing from Mexico into Texas in 2002. So, shortly after marrying, the newlyweds hired a lawyer to get Paulo right with the law.

One day, as the couple was going through their I-130 interview at a federal office in Boston, their world began to crumble. There in the interview room, Rachael and Paulo learned that Paulo had an outstanding deportation order. He had no criminal record, but somewhere along the line—as he sought a driver’s license or another document that he needed for his everyday life—a judge had served Paolo deportation orders, orders that he never received. After giving the few possessions he was holding to his wife, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer took Paulo away to a detention center.

Though Rachel gathered friends, family, and Paulo’s coworkers to ask immigration officials to grant Paolo released supervision, the authorities deemed him ineligible for parole. After two difficult months in a detention center, Paolo was deported to Brazil.

Immigration FamiliesRachel worried about the effect separation would have on their marriage. She chose to move to Brazil and remains there today, despite her continued struggles with learning Portuguese, separation from her parents, and occasional feelings of isolation in her new home.

As a country, we have a commitment to strengthening families, and in the absence of action from Congress, the president has no choice but to act to keep families together. President Obama has the legitimate authority to fix elements of the outdated immigration system. He should provide relief from deportation to those who have strong ties to our country and are woven into our communities.

Too many American citizens are having their families torn apart without hope for a better future.

Pupusas, Pho, and Burgers All in One Block

By Ellie Klerlein, Deputy Director, Digital, NCLR

Carecen_blogpic

Yesterday, I got to do one of my favorite parts of the job. I attended a citizenship ceremony organized by NCLR Affiliate CARECEN and the USCIS Office of Citizenship at the Mount Pleasant Public Library in Washington, DC.  During the ceremony, we welcomed new Americans from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, India, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Nigeria, and Iran.  And it just seemed fitting to have the ceremony in Mount Pleasant.  As Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of CARECEN put it in his welcome remarks:

“This is a community that embraces diversity, a place where the neighborhood Catholic Parish holds masses in 5 different languages, a place where you can eat an American burger, a Salvadoran pupusa, Peruvian chicken and Vietnamese pho on the same block.”

Continue reading

After Waiting 13 Years, My Family Reunified

By Alicia Criado, Policy Associate, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR

www.violettamarkelou.comWhen I initially heard the current immigration reform bill introduced on April 17 proposed to remove or limit certain family-based immigration petitions all I could think about was my personal family story.  Without these petitions, many of my family members currently living and helping to strengthen the United States’ economy would not be here.

My family is similar to many Latinos families in that we are close-knit and this includes my extended family.  My mom was the first in her family to immigrate to the U.S. and through the family immigration system my mom sponsored her mother and eventually her sibling living in Peru.

Continue reading