Edit ModuleShow Tags

Dreams Deferred

A real-life look into the path to citizenship


(page 3 of 4)

The question comes too frequently. Where are you from? The answer, for two residents who aren’t citizens, is never easy. When a friend asked Carolina recently, “I just stood quiet,” she says. “I don’t know what they want me to answer. I’d have to tell you my whole life story.”

Neither sister feels American. The country’s policies haven’t embraced them. This isn’t capital-H Home, it’s a home. But they don’t identify as being Mexican, either. Mexico is a home, but it’s one they haven’t seen in more than a decade. Home is California, Mexicali, Escondido, the United States, Mexico—and none of those places.

They settled two hours from the city where they grew up, where their extended family still lives. But they’ve never returned. They couldn’t. Not if they wanted to come back in.

Cousins have been born, grown up, and Carolina and Diana have never met them. They’re Facebook friends instead. One cousin messaged Diana recently on Facebook. She didn’t know how to respond.

“In a way, I want to talk to her,” Diana says. “But in a way I can’t because I don’t know what to talk about. It would be a lot easier if I could have coffee with them. When you’re chatting online with them it’s different. It’s so different.”

Diana has been more private about her status than Carolina. In college, Diana found a job at an insurance company that she knew would pay for her schooling. No one there asked about her work eligibility and she didn’t volunteer her status. “I wasn’t going to do anything to harm that job,” she says.

Their status limited their options. They didn’t have work permits for the paid assistantships and research jobs other students took. While colleagues in her master’s cohort got more experience by working on campus, Carolina babysat.

But as they’ve grown into their undocumented status, they’ve learned that the obstacles are part of their unique American experience. Carolina and Diana aren’t ashamed to be undocumented. They’re fascinated by it. As they climb farther into academia, their status influences what they want to study: migration trends, how being undocumented affects families, couples, relationships.

Carolina has embraced the increasingly emboldened stance of a generation of Dreamers like her, pointing to their advanced degrees to convince the country of their value. She’s blogged about it. She and Diana started a Facebook page called UndocuPick-upLines with two friends. (Sample: “You’re so hot you could melt I.C.E.”)

For now, Diana is working as an organizer helping get undocumented youth like her enrolled in a temporary deportation deferral program. She wants to start applying for Ph.D. programs next year. Carolina is working with Wong at UC San Diego, researching immigration.

She’s deferred her acceptance to University of Chicago for a year, hoping to save money first. She plans to start next fall. Still, she feels frustrated by the uncertainty that clouds her future.

“I’m trying to make plans,” she says. “I want to pursue my Ph.D. I want to teach. I want to do all these things. But I can’t guarantee anyone—the university, my family, my friends—that I’ll be here in the next five years or the next 10 years.”

In the meantime, she and Diana both hope Congress will pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure. Then the weight they feel might be lifted, and the nagging questions might be answered.


Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

4 San Diego Chefs' Guide to Entertaining

Buzzy local chefs give us the scoop on hosting the ultimate dinner party, plus recipes for their impress-the-guests dishes

San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018

Dig into the 260 winners defining San Diego’s food scene in 2018

The Coolest Things Happening in San Diego Beer Right Now

A dive into the new, notable, and lesser-known in our city’s beer scene
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Personal Stories are on Display at the Museum of Man's 'PostSecret'
    Frank Warren collects deep, dark secrets for this community arts project
  2. The Best Burgers in San Diego
    These burgers are food critic Troy Johnson's finalists for the best in San Diego
  3. The Best of North County 2018
    Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
  4. San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    Dig into the 260 winners defining San Diego’s food scene in 2018
  5. Your 2018 San Diego Summer Bucket List
    Here’s our insider’s guide for Memorial Day through Labor Day
  6. 16 Great Places to Go Camping in Southern California and Baja
    We’ve rounded up sites with the best ocean views, mountain peaks, and desert landscapes
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Vote Now for Your Orangetheory Winner!

Winners will be announced at our Sweat event on May 12

Not Your Grandma's Orthotics

New year, new – shoe? Staying on your feet for long hours at a time just got a whole lot more comfortable with Wiivv’s BASE custom insoles
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Connect With Us:

Edit ModuleShow Tags


AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags