The Struggle of an AB540 Student
For most people, moving to another country is a major event in ones life and I was no exception. My parents immigrated to the United States with the same dream as that of millions of other immigrants, which is the dream of a better life. What makes me different from my parents is that I was not leaving a home behind in Mexico, but instead I was coming home. My home in Los Angeles has everything a person could ever want: love, friends, and a family; however, I was not brought into this country in the best of ways. I am classified as an AB540 student in the state of California, which is a label that has echoed throughout my entire life. As an AB540 student, I do not have the same privileges or rights as that of a United States citizen. I was brought to this country to find new opportunities to succeed, only to find that my opportunities to succeed are extremely limited. The combination of poverty and limited resources for success drives the majority of child immigrants to give up on their ambitions and ultimately fall prey to a life full of fear. Even when faced with so many challenges, there are still child immigrants that do not give up hope and break the prejudices people have against immigrants.
An AB540 student is the legal term of the otherwise common label of illegal immigrants. Whether or not you are an adult that knows they are coming into this country illegally or a child that is unknowingly brought into this country by their parents; under current laws there is no differentiating between these types of situations. If you are illegally present in this country, then you are breaking the law no matter what your age or situation may be. The main prejudice people have about illegal immigrants is that we are put under the same classification of criminals by simply existing in this country.
Furthermore, as an AB540 student I have the opportunity to pay in state tuition for the purpose of making college more affordable, but as an illegal immigrant I hardly have any opportunities to succeed. Illegal immigrants, unlike United States citizens, do not have a social security number. Without a social security number, immigrants throughout the country are not allowed to work due to The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which makes employers verify that their employees are United States citizens through their social security number (Canaday). In the state of California the DMV is unable to provide a driver’s license to someone that does not have a social security number, which ultimately limits our modes of transportation (McFayden). However, the biggest limitation many illegal immigrant children face that aspires to go to college is that the government can not provide student aid through FAFSA or grants to a student that is not a United States citizen, no matter how well that student has done in high school (Student Aid Eligibility). All of these factors combined with the constant fear of deportation have forced hundreds of aspiring and intelligent students to give up their dreams of a higher education.
I am personally an AB540 student and an illegal immigrant because I was brought into the United States from Mexico as a young child, but was not turned into a United States citizen during this process. I have lived most of my life in ignorance when it came to my immigration status and the challenges I will have to face because of it. I would once in a while hear from my parents to watch out for “la migra”, which at the time I thought was another word for police. In a way they are like police, but instead of arresting criminals, they specialize in arresting and deporting immigrants like me.
In truth, my reality, concerning my immigration status, did not set in until my senior year in high school. I have always been motivated by a passion to go to college and to succeed in my dream of becoming a Civil Engineer. This passion to accomplish my goals is what has brought me much of my success in school. However, my dreams slowly started to slip away from my grasp as I learned of the financial barriers I have to face in order to attend a prestigious college. I come from a low income family and as many other students in my situation, I have to rely on financial aid in order to attend a college like UC San Diego or CSU Northridge. The problem is that unlike most of my friends, I was unable to apply for FAFSA simply because I do not have a social security number. The truth is that the majority of immigrant students come from low income families and simply can not afford to go to college.
As my acceptance letters came in from colleges I had applied too, it hurt me to know that I am good enough to attend college, but am unable to go because I lack the money to pay for it. During this time I also became aware of how parts of the country perceive immigrants. Recently Arizona passed the SB 1070 law that basically gives police the right to arrest and detain illegal immigrants without a warrant through “reasonable suspicion” (Dwyer). Laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 are being supported by thousands of people in this country in order to get illegal immigrants out. I felt trapped in a society that does not want me here. However, for me and for many other immigrant children this country, the United States, is the only home we have. What we have established in this country is all we know. It is sad for me to know that I can be potentially evicted from my home by being deported to a country that is foreign to me. Even with all of these challenges facing me, I am still far from giving up on my dreams. I do not blame my parents or anyone for that matter for being an illegal immigrant, because in the end of the day the challenges I have faced and the people I have met here in Los Angeles have ultimately shaped me to be the person I am today.
In conclusion, the life of a child immigrant is one of struggles and limitations; however, it is these same challenges and limitations that motivate me and other immigrant children to never give up. I have established a home here in Los Angeles for this is where everything I know and love about the world resides. The people and the experiences I have acquired in this country are things that no one can ever take away from me. In the end, we are not criminals, but people that are simply here trying our best to overcome a label that has marked us since childhood.
Canaday, Marquis. “The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986”. Associated
Content. 2008. Web. June 7, 2011. <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/598281/the_immigration_reform_and_control.html>.
Dwyer, Devin. “Arizona Immigration Law Take Effect as Legal Battle Continues”. ABC
McFayden, Jennifer. “Getting a Driver’s License in the U.S.”. About. 2011.Web. June 7, 2011.
“Student Aid Eligibility”. Student Aid. 2011. Web. June 7,2011.