Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles on DACA recipients, printed in partnership with the Daily Lobo.
Lupe Cordova applied for citizenship 18 years ago — but the process was never finalized.
“One of the most frustrating things is that people think, ‘Just go apply,’” she said. “I get so angry when they say, ‘Just go apply — it’s not that hard to apply for citizenship.’ I’m like, ‘I did that 18 years ago, and it’s still in the process of me becoming a citizen.’”
Cordova, a student at the University of New Mexico, said when she was about 5-years-old, her parents were divorced, and her mother brought her to the United States, where most of her mother’s family lived.
Cordova grew up in poverty and attended schools outside of her district for better opportunities; however, she struggled academically at a very young age, she said.
“I remember I had to repeat kindergarten, because my English levels weren’t meeting the material by the end of the year,” Cordova said.
This same problem arose repeatedly, until her third grade teacher told her she would not amount to anything in life, because she did not know English as well as her classmates, she said.
“After that year, I got placed into advanced classes,” Cordova said. “I think she made me want to move forward just because of what she told me and how she made me feel.”
Outside the classroom, she faced more discrimination.
When Cordova was 7-years-old, she asked to play with a group of girls and was told she could be the butler, because butlers don’t speak English, she said.
“I remember them telling me that I was the butler, and I could carry all their stuff and do everything for them,” Cordova said.
It wasn’t until she applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that she felt included, she said.
“I felt like I was part of the United States and like I was being welcomed,” she said.
Cordova heard about DACA when she was nearly 16-years-old, she said.
“I was so excited, because I was just turning 16, and that’s the age where you could find a job,” Cordova said. “It made me feel like I was part of a society, like I was no longer in the shadows.”
Her family hired a lawyer to begin the paperwork for her to become a Dreamer. Along with proving that Cordova had no criminal record and attends school, she had to prove she contributes to society.
“(DACA has) made me not be afraid of my roots and not be afraid to tell people where I come from, and it’s also giving me hope,” Cordova said. “It’s giving me hope to better myself and be part of something that I grew up in, that I was raised in.”
Through DACA, she felt her future become a possibility.
“My dream in life is to become a nurse practitioner and to take care of my mother,” she said. “She can’t retire, and she can’t do anything, so I want to be able to help her in the future.”
People have told Cordova’s family that they do not pay taxes, even though they do. That they receive access to health issuance, when they don’t. That they receive everything a U.S. citizen receives, but in reality, it isn’t like that, she said.
Since President Donald Trump discontinued DACA, Cordova said she fears what will happen next.
“I’m more scared of me losing everything that I worked for and it just being pointless,” she said.
Cordova will continue to attend the University of New Mexico and become the first person in her family to graduate from college. Cordova’s education is something she will always have, even if she cannot become a U.S. citizen, she said.
Being a Dreamer has shaped Cordova into a hardworking individual, and she believes all Dreamers have that in common, she said.
“A Dreamer is someone that’s looking for an opportunity to grow and fulfill their dreams in a country that they were practically raised in, just someone that’s trying to do better for themselves and someone that wants to live in the United States as an American,” Cordova said.
Amy Byres is a culture reporter at the Daily Lobo and an editor at NM News Port. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amybyres12.