This is the story of Elizabeth, an 18-year-old undocumented Latino woman who grew up and lives in Durham. She was interviewed by Emily Fisher.
It was something I knew I always wanted to do. It was something I knew I was going to do. After I found out that the bill didn’t pass, I was really sad. That was my only hope of ever going to college. My friends told me to keep my head up because it could pass; if it’s brought up again and support is stronger, it could.
My family moved to the United States when I was 7. It was a week after my birthday and I was in second grade. I would cry a lot before school, but my mom would still send me anyway. And when I entered high school, that’s when I got really serious about my schoolwork. I took astronomy, psychology, photography, art, a bunch of electives, chorus; I tried a lot of things to see what I liked to do.
I was caught up in the whole senioritis thing, and everybody was applying to college. And that’s when it really hit me that I couldn’t go. And I started finding out about how high it is–the out-of-state tuition–because that’s what I would be charged. I got a few applications and I started filling them out, but I stopped because it was just something I couldn’t do.
I started feeling really bad when everybody started getting their acceptance letters. I started skipping my sixth period because it was all seniors and they would all talk about it. So I would tell the teacher I had to go to the library. Sometimes I wouldn’t even tell her, I would just go straight to the library. My parents started getting calls like, “Your daughter missed a period today.” My mom started feeling bad, she was like, “Well, you know, I wouldn’t have brought you here–in Mexico you would have gone to college and it would be a lot easier for you.” We started having a lot of fights around my house. That was what my senior year mostly was.
I hit this depression. I wasn’t like this before. I thought that I was never going to be anybody.
I have a friend at UNC-Charlotte, I have a friend at ECU, I have a friend who went to Colorado, I have a friend at Carolina and friends at State.
I enrolled in Durham Tech and I didn’t want to go there. My mom said it was better than nothing, so I went. At first I wouldn’t talk to anybody, I would just keep to myself. Right now my only choice is going to Durham Tech. And I’m not complaining, because it is good, and I am learning a lot of things there; it is school.
ince I grew up here, I don’t remember anything about Mexico. Even if I speak Spanish and it’s my culture, it’s just different than it is here. I don’t think I could go back and live in Mexico. I don’t know anything about it.
People are scared that we are going to take their place. But it’s not like a lot of Hispanics are graduating–I am the only Hispanic female in my whole class to graduate. We don’t expect to just get in free. We have to pass all the requirements that everyone else passes. It’s up to the school if they want to accept me. There are people who don’t want to study, who are dropping out to be gang-bangers. They didn’t have any motivation to be there, but I did.
Right now there’s no amnesty, so even if I applied [for citizenship] I’d have to wait a long time for something to open up for me to be eligible to get amnesty. I’ve lived here for 12 years and it would still be hard. The last time there was an amnesty was in ’84. I know a lot of families who are legal now because of that, but we weren’t here yet. It was really easy back then because there were not a lot of Hispanics.
It’s really affecting someone, somewhere, and I’m an example. There are a lot of dreams that are being crushed. I had to go to therapy because my self-esteem was so low. I think I’m getting better because I’m talking about it a lot more, but I had a wall built around me.
If the bill passed, I would apply to as many colleges as I could to see who would accept me. I’ve never been someone to play around with my grades; I’ve always had good grades, and now that I’m at Durham Tech I’ve maintained my good grades. I wouldn’t mess it up.
I told my mom that when I have kids I want my kids to have parents they can be proud of. I’ve never wanted to settle for something less. I know that I can get something better. And I can be something more. I want my sisters to have an example of someone they can become, they can be bigger than me. My little sister always says she wants to be an astronaut, that she wants to work for NASA. The other day she said she wanted to be president and I was like, “You could be president!” I want them to aim high.