Undocumented, Unafraid: Dreamer Seeks to Aid Others, Self
When Presient Obama turned his admininstration’s focus on assissting young undocumented immigrants dubbed “Dreamers” Laura Bohoroquez was hopeful.
Bohoroquez, 28, works for United We Dream, a resource center for undocumented youth based in Washington, D.C.
“My parents came [to the US from Mexico] when I was one year old, and then I came when I was four,” Bohorquez said. “So throughout those three years I lived with my aunt and my grandma, who at that time I thought were my parents.”
Bohorquez reconnected with her parents in Brewster,Washington. Her mother crossed first and saved up enough money to bring over the rest of the family. “It took about four months to save up the money to allow her to cross over,” Bohorquez said.
Borhorquez said she was 10 years old when her mother was deported. She believes her mother was tricked into “self-deporting” by signing off on a paper she was told would “fix” her undocumented status. She didn't understand that she wasn't required to sign it, and could have used a lawyer to help.
Believing they were too old for higher education, her parents had focused on putting their children through school so that they would have better opportunities than they had.
Bohorquez describes Brewster as a rural town with a small population. , She was encouraged by her school librarian to apply for a scholarship dedicated to undocumented students.
“A lot of that funding was open to a lot of the undocumented community in my town,” Bohorquez said. “And because Washington state's economy is dependant on agriculture, there was a lot of scholarships for folks and families who worked in the agricultural field.”
She used the money to pay for her college education, but moving 4 hours away from her agricultural town took away the opportunity to apply for similar scholarships which she wasn’t eligible for as an undocumented student.
Bohorquez was supposed to graduate in 2010, which was when Obama's DREAM Act was blocked. The act proposed creating a path to permanent residency for young people who had been brought into the country undocumented before age 16. The bill passed in the House of Representatives but died on the Senate floor.
Bohorquez found herself challenged. Deciding to enroll for a fifth year as an undergraduate, she had enough money to stay in school.
“I knew that if I graduated I'd have to go back to my town and go back to ... working in the orchards and that wasn't the choice that I wanted,” Bohorquez said.
So school became her “safe haven.” She applied to graduate school and was accepted before the Obama administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allowed some undocumented young people to apply for work permits and deferred deportation. . Her undocumented status limited her financial aid options in grad school , and she couldn't be paid a stipend while working at the school due to lacking a social security number.
As a grad student she was not as open about her status, less out of shame, but more of fear for jeopardizing her immigration status.
Her greatest fear now is that she won’t to be able to support her parents.
The GOP candidates for president this year have repeatedly taken aim at the issue of immigration, threatening mass deportations.
“I want to say a lot of things to them,” Bohorquez said with a chuckle. “They have to acknowledge that my humanity is connected to their humanity, and if they're not able to see that then we will achieve nothing at all.”