New immigration policy is inspiring 'Dreamers'

2012-06-16T00:00:00Z New immigration policy is inspiring 'Dreamers'Gabriela Rico and Veronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The news arrived via text message: President Obama says you won't be getting deported.

"Oh my God," Alejandra Baltazar remembers thinking, "I can be a teacher now. … I don't have to be a dishwasher anymore."

The 22-year-old was in tears when she called her mother and grandmother to share the news.

"I'm so happy that this is real now," said Baltazar, who came to Tucson from Querétaro, Mexico, when she was 14 years old.

Because under Arizona law she is not eligible for in-state tuition, Baltazar has been washing dishes at a restaurant to pay for classes at the University of Arizona, where she is majoring in linguistics. She wants to teach English and Spanish.

"I've been worried about how to pay my tuition because, without a Social Security number, job options are tough," she said.

"Now I feel like …" her voice trailed off, "Just thank God."

Baltazar is one of an estimated 1 million people who will not be deported under a plan announced by the president Friday.

On Thursday night, one Tucson mother prayed for a miracle to help her daughter attend college.

Sofia Machado said President Obama answered it Friday.

"I prayed for it last night with my daughter because she was crying and then this morning I said, 'Oh my God. It's a miracle'," Machado said.

Her daughter Maria Ortiz, a recent graduate of Sunnyside High School, was brought here from Sonora when she was 8 years old.

Ortiz, 18 said Friday's announcement was a jump-start for her future.

"I wasn't aware of the situation I was in, that I couldn't go to (college) when I graduated high school," she said.

Adelina Lopez, 25, remembers little about Hermosillo, Sonora, which she left 20 years ago.

"I remember the dirt streets, I remember playing outside for a little while," she said. "That's pretty much it."

When Lopez heard the news, she "jumped for excitement."

"I was raised here, my culture (is) here," she said. "I wouldn't call (Mexico) home."

Lopez volunteers with Border Action Network and now plans to pursue a degree in graphic design.

"When I was in high school, I was planning everything. I was like 'Once I get out of here, straight to college, graduate, great job.' " she said. "Then once I graduated I was like 'Oh my gosh. What's going on?' Everything shattered and I was like, 'Well, what's next?' "

She worked baby-sitting and cleaning houses and managed to save some money to pay for a class at Pima Community College.

She plans to use the new opportunity to contribute to the community.

"We want to give back," she said. "We're not here just to take, we want to give back to this nation … be leaders, great leaders who inspire others."

Like Lopez, 20-year-old Ignacio Gracia, was unaware of his status when he was growing up.

"It was hard to see all my friends going forward but not me," he said. "It was unfair because we're the same, just without the status."

Gracia was born in Sonora and his family brought him to the U.S. when he was 9 months old.

Gracia said he looks forward to enjoying the same opportunities available to fellow high school graduates.

"It opens a lot of doors to us," Gracia said. "They're giving us a chance to become what we want to be."

In Los Angeles for a summer program, Alexandra Samarron heard the news while surrounded by students who shared her predicament.

"We were crying and some people were like, 'Really? Is this really happening?' " she said.

The 23-year-old's family came to Tucson from Sonora when she was 16 years old.

She is enrolled at Pima Community College, studying nutritional science and said she now looks forward to transferring to a university.

"I'm going to be able to get my bachelor's degree. I won't have to worry about finding a job after I graduate," Samarron said. "I feel more safe in my community now and I feel protected."

Asked how he felt about the president's actions Friday, PCC student Josue Saldivar's response was reserved and he said he felt thankful.

"We have been waiting for this type of action for many years," said Saldivar, 21, who was 8 years old when his family moved to Tucson from Sonora.

He hopes the development will help people see young men and women like him as neighbors.

"Dreamers are here in Tucson," he said. "We are working hard to receive a higher education and we are not a threat to the United States."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Event Calendar

Today's events | Add an event

Most viewed: