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Voices of Dreamers 

With Obama's Deferred Action program, more and more immigrant youth are telling their stories

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Both Xisamena and her brother applied for Deferred Action in August. They have yet to hear back. She attended three different application workshops, but decided to seek help from a private law office after she found some errors while looking over her initial applications. Private help wasn't cheap, but Xisamena and her family didn't want to take the chance of filling out the application incorrectly. "One mistake and it's rejected. The lawyer wanted $500 for helping me fill it out," Xisamena says, "but his secretary told me she would help me for $200."

Xisamena hopes that once she gets her paperwork, she can finally have a sense of security; right now, she has a one-hour commute to attend college, and she worries about being pulled over every time she gets into her car. But another thing she looks forward to is traveling. Although Deferred Action won't grant Xisamena her lifelong dream of going abroad, she wants to spend her two years of Deferred status exploring the United States—the only country she's ever remembered calling home.

When Jorge was six, his mother discovered that his father had a separate family in a different town. His father left shortly after. "In Mexico, there is no child support," Jorge explains. "We all had to live in one small room because my mom became a single mom."

After years of suffering and instability, Jorge's mother left him and his sister with an aunt in Mexico so she could come to America to provide a better life for her children. While crossing the border, she was stripped of her clothes and robbed by the man she paid to help her cross. Eventually, after about a year of working as a janitor, Jorge's mother had finally saved enough money to come back for him and his sister. In her absence, Jorge became angry without any parents to provide guidance, and he remembers missing her so much that when she came back, "it felt like Christmas when you wake up and find your toys."

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When Jorge was 14, his family journeyed across the desert on a blazing hot day for what he considers the most physically demanding walk of his life. Although the walk was long and hard—and resulted in horrible sunburn—the night was worse. "Regardless of how hot it is," he says, "you have to bring a jacket, because at night, you're freezing."

Jorge's mother paid $3,000 per person in order to be led though the desert, and now, Jorge says, "I hear it's even more." As he was walking across the hot desert with the sun burning down on him, he remembers being warned by his mother not to trust anyone after her first crossing experience, and thinking, "I'm 14 years old. They can overtake me and my family."

It was two years before Jorge realized that what he did that day wasn't legal. At the time, he was very involved in his school's book club, and together with his classmates, helped fundraise for a class trip to Italy. Once it came time to prepare for the trip, Jorge was asked to bring in his passport, but when he asked his mom, he didn't get the answer he was hoping for. "My mom was just like, 'Mijo, you can't. You don't have papers,'" he says. "That's when I knew this was going to suck."

Since, Jorge has realized there's a lot more he can't do. After he graduated, he went to his school counselor for help applying to college. He dreamed of going to a UC but would have needed financial aid, and as an undocumented student, Jorge was ineligible, even though he had good grades. The counselor told him it would be a waste of time to apply. "I was completely devastated," he says, "but she was right."

Through all of this, the scariest moment in Jorge's life was when he was pulled over by a sheriff in Rohnert Park and taken into custody for driving without a license. He was then told that immigration enforcement would arrive at the jail at 6pm. From there, Jorge became emotionally destroyed. He used his one phone call to contact a bail bond agency, but the woman on the other end told him, "I'm sorry, we've been having a lot of these calls and we can't do anything, even with a signer."

While in jail, Jorge kept thinking, "I'm not a criminal, and I work hard at shitty jobs, never take anything from anyone, that's how I was raised." Luckily for Jorge, someone took notice. He had made plans with a friend, and when Jorge didn't show, his friend knew it was unlike him. He got worried and called the hospitals and, finally, the jail.

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