11/18/2013 04:24 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

From Fearful to Fearless, Refusing to Back Down or Apologize

As undocumented youth leaders and organizers in our communities, we know how important it is to know and share our stories -- where we come from, who we are, and where we want to go. I firmly reject any suggestions that we should apologize for who we are or the courageous sacrifices our parents made. Yes, we are undocumented, but this is our home, and we will not stop fighting for administrative relief from President Obama and a permanent solution from Congress that affirms the dignity of Dreamers and our families.

I'm constantly reminded of my tumultuous journey as an undocumented immigrant and the sacrifices my parents have made for my siblings and me. As the fight for immigration reform continues, those sacrifices and the fear my family has lived through should be the reminder to Democrats and Republicans, Congress and Obama, that the moral, human, economic cost of inaction is staggering.

We -- my mother, brother, sister, and I -- immigrated to this country on tourist visas in order to be reunited with my father who had found work here. I was just a baby at the time. My mother has always told me that we had never planned to stay; the hope of returning to Costa Rica soon was always present in her heart, until she realized that the quality of life her children would have here was simply better.

There was no legal pathway for our family to get papers at the time, so we began our life in the shadows, hoping for immigration reform and a chance to become fully recognized as part of our community of Lakeland, Florida and the United States, the country my family has called home for two decades.

Like most households, our drive to school every day was preceded by the sheer chaos that came with waking up at the crack of dawn with just enough time to make it to class before the first bell; shoving homework into my backpack, and swallowing the breakfast my mother would whip up for me in minutes.

This early morning routine is oddly familiar in households across the country, yet, every day as our car kicked into life and slowly accelerated out of our small driveway, I watched my normally, bold, outspoken, and grounded mother transform into a ball of fear. Her body would tense, her eyes would narrow as she concentrated on every move she made behind the wheel and of those around her, and her shoulders would curve inward reflecting the stress that enveloped her heart. My sisters and I knew these drives to school were not to be taken lightly. We would sit in a helpless silence, holding back any desire to ask questions. Our morning drive to and from high school was a tense, anxiety-filled experience that shaped my childhood and adolescence, yet stamped a profound respect for my mother and not surprisingly, a passion for immigrant justice.

Undocumented immigrants do not have access to driver's licenses in most states and can deported after something as minor as a traffic violation. The very act of driving your children to school can separate you from your family indefinitely. Today, I am fortunate enough to say that I am a part of the 5 percent of undocumented youth who have the opportunity to sit in a college classroom. I've started my first year at Sarah Lawrence College, understanding that my mother risked deportation every morning because she was driving me to school so I could reach this point.

Today, as we continue to live out the legacy of those who came before us, we fight against the deportations of members of our community, exposing the pain and family separations caused by the ongoing 400,000 deportation quota and demanding the recognition of our dignity.

We should not and will not apologize for the bold, courageous sacrifices our parents made for our future. They did what any loving parent would do and our community has been subjected to enough shame and stigma to last a lifetime. Rather than apologizing, I am here to assert my rightful place in this country and insist that both Republicans and Democrats honor and affirm the dignity and humanity of our families.