In April 2012, I was accepted to the Obama Campaign Fellows program. I believed in the president's commitment to change history and felt duty-bound to help him win re-election. But my support would come with a cost. After being selected, I had no option but to disclose my legal status, which was that of an undocumented immigrant student, or DREAMer. One of many students who met the general requirements for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.
My gratitude to the United States is immense. It allowed my parents the opportunity to provide my siblings and I a better future, and for me to accomplish things that went far beyond my vision. During my college years, I discovered that I had a passion for the complexities of the legislative system; policy, change, advocacy, and civic engagement.
Then came Friday, June 15, 2012. I was on my daily commute from Santa Fe to UNM, when I heard that President Obama was about to make an announcement regarding DREAMers. He said, "These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."
I cried all the way from the bus stop to UNM where I stormed into El Centro de la Raza screaming the good news. A dream had come true, not just for me, but for my siblings and the many other students in our position. I felt so proud to be an Obama Fellow.
However, never did I expect to be caught in an extremely delayed approval process for my DACA.
For the next three years I went on to serve as an intern, fellow, and professional intern. Though I was able to obtain some class credits and small scholarships along the way, due to my legal status, I could not receive pay. But I was determined to finish my education and to be part of a system that would allow me, and the communities I represent, a place at the table, even if it meant working for free.
Being politically active with a no-pay status has been both challenging and gratifying. Living the day to day was difficult, to the say the least. I couldn't have made it through my undergrad years without the support of loved ones and caring individuals at the University of New Mexico who found and helped me get scholarships. Gratifying was learning from the best legislators and analysts in New Mexico.
This past April 6, 2016, I finally held my DACA card. The joy I felt was beyond the moon. My mind was filled with thoughts of job offers I would now be able to accept, WITH PAY, along with all the possibilities for a future that seemed boundless.
In spite of all the roadblocks I had to navigate, I feel no resentment. I found pathways filled with incredible people who helped me along my way. Because of them, I was able to participate in the political process at state and national levels by way of internships and fellowships. I obtained my Bachelor's degree in Political Science, started my MA degree in Educational Leadership & Policy in 2015, then applied to and was accepted by "EMERGE America/NM," a women's political training program as a member of their 2016 class. I am the first DREAMer in New Mexico and one of only three DREAMers in the U.S. to have been chosen for this competitive national program.
President Barrack Obama will always hold a special place in the hearts of DREAMers. His leadership and courage to enact DACA in the face of all the derision and political pressures he received from Congress, is beyond commendable.
From this point on my life will be incredibly impacted and I know that my capacity to serve my communities will be much greater. Therefore, I will seek to improve the lives of the most vulnerable, underrepresented and underprivileged communities across our great nation. I will make it my goal to emphasize the importance of civic and political engagement through direct advocacy, voter education and outreach.