Up Front and Personal

Immigrant Can Finally Pursue American Dream

by Luz Amada Muy Palaguachi

I came to the United States from Ecuador at age 15 to reunite with the members of my family who had traveled to this country in search of a better life. The change was very difficult because of the language and way of life, which is very different from my country of birth. However, I worked hard in school and was the first in my family to graduate from high school.

The biggest obstacle to my success came when I wanted to attend college. My immigration status made it impossible for me to apply. My dreams of being a psychologist and my desire to help others stagnated. I suffered a lot because of my inability to continue my education. I began to work at a restaurant and tried to save money, but my wages did not help with the high cost of college, so I decided to stop my pursuit of higher education.

The other difficult challenge was the death of my mother a few years ago. I had a very hard time facing my mother’s death at a young age, especially because it was her last wish to be buried in her native Ecuador. I was unable to go to her funeral because I am an undocumented immigrant. It was, for me, a heavy blow to know that I could not go. So many young New York immigrants like me with loved ones in our native countries are separated without hope of seeing them again.

Today, thanks to the DREAM Deferred Action policy, I have hope. As a Catholic believer in a compassionate God, I believe the DREAM Deferred Action policy is a very big opportunity not only for me but for hundreds of young people who are in my same situation to continue our education, someday to be professionals and to not live in fear of being deported, especially when 411,000 immigrants have been deported in the last four years — the highest ever in American history.

I am an active member of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Corona. As a volunteer leader with Queens Congregations United for Action (QCUA) and a member of a youth group called United for Peace, I am working to make sure that as many of the one million young immigrants who qualify for this policy apply as possible.

I am also forming a lay leadership group with QCUA that will be working to make sure that immigrants in my community vote in the upcoming November elections so that we can increase the power of people in my parish and neighborhood to convince Congress and our president to pass comprehensive immigration reform and give hard-working, law-abiding immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

I am grateful to Msgr. Thomas Healy, our pastor, who, for over 25 years, has supported the working poor and immigrant families in my parish and community, living out Catholic social teachings and loving justice.

As a person of faith, I believe that the DREAM Deferred Action policy (and someday the DREAM Act) will benefit many young people in my community, and I personally pledge to support immigrant families in my parish and ask you to join together with our forces and continue fighting with us to achieve our dreams.