Arianna: Determined to fight for dignity and the right to be here

This week we are publishing the stories told by undocumented immigrant youth on March 10th, 2011 in Chicago, as part of our second annual National Coming Out of the Shadows rally. In our second post, we hear from Arianna, a high school student and an organizer with Nuestra Voz, a youth-led immigrant rights group in the Illinois suburb of Melrose Park. This was the first year that we had undocumented high school students come out, Arianna was one of them.

My name is Arianna Salgado and I am undocumented. I came to this country when I was 6 years old with my mom and my brother. I always knew I was undocumented and mom would tell me not to share my status for fear of deportation. Back then I had no idea what deportation or being undocumented meant. I later found out that deportation not only meant returning to a country I no longer knew, but also being separated from my family. Then my sophomore year, the reality of being undocumented gave me a blow. By then I knew that I was not able to get my driver’s license because of lack of social security number; I was not able to attend the trip to Europe with my classmates because I couldn’t leave this country.

Shortly after that, someone told me that going to college was going to be impossible because of my status. At that point, I felt like everything was over. My goal has always been to graduate high school and attend college for that is the reason why my mom brought me here. I began to question why I was still in school if there was nothing after high school for me. My grades began to drop, I had lost hope. To make matters worse, I had no one to talk to about my situation, I had no one to relate to, and I thought I was the only one.

Last year I attended the first Coming Out rally. That was the first time I heard someone say that they were undocumented out loud. When those 8 students spoke, they told my stories. For the first time I had someone to relate to, I was no longer alone. After that day I began to feel comfortable sharing my status and became determined to finish high school, go to college and fight for the right to be here because we deserve it. For the last year I have been working with Nuestra Voz to help educate around the DREAM Act in my community.

Now I stand here, a year later, in the same stage where I heard the stories of youth that encouraged me. I stand here, more determined than ever; having being accepted to 3 universities I applied to, having fought for my rights and the rights of others. Determined to not only continue with my education, but also continue the fight for equality and the right to be here. I am no longer afraid of people finding out my status, I am not sorry that I was brought to this country for a better life. I am a student, I am a human being, I am a youth that deserve the same dignity and respect as anyone else.

My name is Arianna; I am undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic!

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