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    Posted June 28, 2014 by
    Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    President’s immigration plan: Your views

    My ugly disease, being Undocumented


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Jackie Cervantes’s parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico illegally when she was only 7 years old. Encouraged by teachers along the way, Cervantes navigated school and graduated with a high enough GPA to get into her dream schools. The only thing that was stopping her was not having a Social Security number – she couldn’t get federal student aid and couldn’t afford school without it.

    Working three jobs while attending community college, Cervantes was eventually able to transfer to UNC Chapel Hill. She won a state scholarship and graduated as an undocumented immigrant. In 2013, Cervantes got a visa. She now works as a dental hygienist. CNN cannot confirm all of the claims in this iReport.
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    Sometimes in life you can't prevent a disease, just like I couldn't prevent being undocumented. Yes, I know people will criticize me and say "go back to Mexico, wetback." Thing is this is my home, the place I have called home for over 19 years, and I'm going nowhere. Yes, my parents made a choice and brought me to the U.S. illegally, but I can't blame them for doing so. I probably would have done the same in their shoes. Now that I have a son, I know I would do anything for him. He is an American citizen, yet I still see him as undocumented, because of the hate and way people view us. I would rather be seen as a wetback, undocumented, a million times, than to be an ignorant person who cannot understand that this is a humanitarian issue.


    I was brought here at age 7, I didn’t even know another country existed outside of Mexico. All I knew was that my parents had to leave and find work in order to feed their family. My parents made a difficult choice to leave everything they knew and loved behind; go into a new world in which they would have to start from scratch. Nothing guaranteed them success, they would have to work from the bottom up, and still they had the courage to become Undocumented. I could write about how well I did in school and how my teachers always encouraged me but I feel like this story has been told by many, so I would rather tell you about what challenges I have faced being undocumented.


    I graduated high school with a GPA that could have gotten me into most schools that I wanted. I realized in high school that a 9-digit number was keeping me from my dreams because I couldn’t afford school. My parents had 6 children to feed and a roof to keep over their heads and I couldn’t be selfish and ask them to give up their home to help me through college. I knew that I would have to work harder for everything I wanted, and so I did. As an undocumented I have had to do things differently in my life and make choices that I wouldn't have otherwise. At one moment in my life I had 3 jobs and going to community college.


    I cannot apologize for being undocumented because in my heart I know I did nothing wrong. As I have mentioned before, I was brought here. Like my brothers, I had no choice in what happened with our lives. I still remember the day my parents sent someone for us. We were smuggled in pairs, one of my brothers had to be dressed like a little girl to be sneaked in with the documents of someone else. I remember we were told to be quiet and to pretend we were sleeping as they drove us through the border. Our lives were impacted in so many ways since that day and I consider myself lucky to be in this country because if I had been in Mexico it would have been near impossible to even have had the opportunity to go to high school.


    I never looked for a way to become legal because I had achieved so much being illegal, and because I had learned from others that it was impossible to do so without having come with a visa initially. When I was a junior in college at UNC Chapel Hill, I had no hopes for finding a job with my future career. To get a Hygiene license I would need a S.S. number. I applied for a U-Visa around the same time that I applied for DACA. I was granted the U-Visa 3 months after the police department signed my petition. I saw it as a miracle because of how quickly they had accepted my application and I couldn’t believe that I was going to be able to work legally as a Dental Hygienist.


    Thanks to the kindness of people such as the ones that helped me realize my dreams as an undocumented, today I am a dental hygienist and no longer “illegal.” I feel illegal in my heart because I have had to live with the fear of being deported and separated from my family. I cannot be thankful enough to the people who created the Felicia Brewer scholarship, which helped me through school and much more. I was the first recipient in NC to receive a scholarship for undocumented students. I am so grateful to have had a mentor guide me through my challenging life, she’s my role model. I have always considered myself lucky, but I know it’s not just luck. I’m blessed to be me, undocumented, hard working, courageous and strong.



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