PHOTO: Amanda Vender
PHOTO: Amanda Vender

Nataly Lopez, a student at Baruch College in New York City, fights for the rights of undocumented immigrants. Nataly wrote this essay in English and in her first language, Spanish.

Sometimes, life gives you an unexpected role to play, but it teaches you a lot more than you would have ever imagined. When I was four years old, my mom and I left Ecuador and came to America to reunite with my dad. I learned English, started Kindergarten and went all the way to high school, making many friends along the way. I had a normal American life. I remember my parents would always say that I had to be careful and that I shouldn’t tell anyone the family “secret.” I never thought it was so big that it would change my life.

I am an undocumented student. I don’t have a social security number that everyone born in the United States has; this makes me almost invisible in this country. But people with big dreams are not easily silenced. I learned to take charge and defend the students who are in this situation. My belief is that people who want to make their dreams a reality should have the opportunity to do so and not have a barrier to stop them, especially, when they are the future of America. I am an American, like you. I grew up in Queens, New York; I call it my “hood.” Undocumented students and documented students are the same; complaining about homework, watching movies and shows, going out with friends. We all have big dreams too; no matter what life brings you, there is always a way to make that dream come true.

Nataly writes in Spanish:

A veces, la vida te da una sorpresa inesperada, pero te enseña mucho más de lo que hubieras imaginado. Cuando tenía cuatro años, mi mamá e yo dejamos el Ecuador y fuimos a los Estados Unidos para reunirnos con mi papá. Allí empecé el jardín infantil y aprendí inglés. Continúe estudiando hasta que me gradué de la escuela secundaria. Tenía una vida Americana normal, con muchas amistades.

Recuerdo a mis padres diciéndome que debía tener cuidado y no decirle a nadie el “secreto” de la familia. Nunca pensé que aquel secreto fuera tan grande que podría cambiar mi vida.

Soy una estudiante indocumentada y no tengo el numero de seguro social como tienen todos los nacidos en los Estados Unidos; por lo tanto soy invisible en este país. Pero las personas con grandes sueños no somos fácilmente silenciadas y he aprendido a tomar decisiones rápidas y defender a los estudiantes que se encuentran en esta situación. Las personas que quieren hacer sus sueños realidad deberían de tener la oportunidad de hacerlo y no tener ningún impedimento que los detenga, sobre todo cuando ellos son el futuro de América.

Yo soy tan americana como tú. Yo crecí en Queens, Nueva York y este lugar es mi “barrio.”

Los estudiantes indocumentados y los estudiantes documentados somos iguales; nos quejámos acerca de las tareas, comentamos películas y programas que vemos, y salimos con amigos. Todos tenemos sueños grandes, no importa los obstáculos que nos trae la vida, siempre hay una manera de hacer esos sueños una realidad.

Children ask President Obama to pardon their undocumented parents so that they won't be deported. PHOTO: Nikki B.
Ecuadorian American children ask President Obama to give amnesty to their undocumented parents so that their moms and dads won’t be deported. PHOTO: Nikki B.
Children of Ecuadorian parents celebrate immigrants on May 1st in Union Square Park, New York City. PHOTO: Nikki B.
Ecuadorian children celebrate immigrants on May 1st in Union Square Park, New York City. PHOTO: Nikki B.