"Monica,” who declines to give her real name, was born in Mexico.
As a child, her family lived in tight quarters at her grandparents’ house in Zacatecas. When her father began to beat her mother, her mother decided to leave, and so she took 12-year-old Monica and her two brothers to the only place she felt safe — to live with her sisters in the United States.
Boulder County, to be specific. Young, undocumented immigrants like Monica can enroll in K–12 schools without consequence, so Monica attended Casey Middle School and Boulder High School. She tried to fit in, acted like a U.S. citizen, and earned a 3.5 GPA.
But she dreaded graduation, because most colleges don’t accept undocumented immigrants, and employers cannot legally hire someone without a Social Security number. “Graduating from high school, I wasn’t excited at all, because I was going to become a criminal,” Monica told Boulder Weekly.
She was about to enter no man’s land, where the society in which she was raised and educated was about to cut off all opportunities because she was born in Mexico.
Monica heard that the Community College of Denver was more flexible than many colleges about admitting undocumented immigrants, and she enrolled there before she graduated from high school, so that she could secure resident tuition before a new law took effect requiring undocumented immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition. By starting her college career early, she was “grandfathered” in and can still pay in-state tuition.
She is one of the lucky ones. But like other undocumented immigrants, she can’t qualify for any financial aid, and her family is poor. She started studying early childhood education, but has since given that up, because she can’t legally get hired. “Even if I did get a degree, I wouldn’t be able to use it,” she says.
Monica does have a job, but she declines to say what it is, maybe because, like many others, she is getting paid under the table and doesn’t want to jeopardize that opportunity or her employer. She still has no Social Security number, and, as an undocumented immigrant, she can’t get one. In addition, Monica is unable to get a driver’s license. “We can’t even get a library card,” she says. She gets her boyfriend to check out books for her.
One of her brothers, who is 18, is about to be deported. He was arrested for a crime she doesn’t disclose, and he is being detained in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility.
Her other brother, who is 17, dropped out of high school. “He decided he didn’t want to continue with it because he knew he couldn’t do anything with it any way,” she says.
Monica is part of a growing number of undocumented immigrants who find themselves with nowhere to go.
A sob story, right? Their parents shouldn’t have brought them here in the first place, agreed? They should just go back to Mexico and enter the country legally! The law is the law, after all. Why should American taxpayers bear the financial burden of their illegal presence in the United States?
It is a bit more complicated than that.