Andres: Undocumented Immigrant Turned Restaurant Owner - Define American

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Andres: Undocumented Immigrant Turned Restaurant Owner

Wow, This is the story of my life. 

My parents brought me to the U.S. back in December 1991 and i lived as an illegal alien up until around five years ago. I went to college and paid for it myself by working 60-70 hours in restaurants and stores. I had a social security card with the same "Valid only with INS work permit," which off course i erased with a computer program and began to use. I remember my first trip to D.M.V where the lady at the window laughed at me for handing in a passport that had a tourist visa that had expired five years prior.(she also told me to leave and never come back) I even got a work permit for a hot second, but when i came in for my last INS interview my interviewer told me he had to deny my application because my mom, who was petitioning me, had finalized her status two weeks after i turned 18 – which means i was supposed to apply as an under 21 unmarried minor.

My options: be deported or sign a document as if i never applied. I finished my degree in Biology and decided to get a degree in secondary science education, so i stayed in College.

This was where my new network came into play, my professors went out of their way to "overcome" my challenges and help me. I was awarded a full scholarship with a year and a half left before finishing my program. I became an A+ student after being a C-B average student.(no more 70 hr weeks during Chemistry and Physics finals). I did my student teaching and was awarded student teacher of the year that semester as the job offers rushed in.

Of course, I couldn't take any position at that time because of my legal status. I was the only waiter also working towards a masters at the restaurant, with countless offers that i could not take.

Today, I own a Mexican restaurant, employ over 42 people, more than 25 are full time employees, the restaurant franchised and we recently open a second location in New Jersey. I'm married and have two beautiful daughters. I was able to go to Costa Rica for the first time in 18 years not long ago and cried as my plane landed. I can understand everything you went through and sympathized with your story, i always wanted to write a book about my story and shed light on the millions of children falling through the cracks in our society, most of which can become very productive Americans.


from Andres
submitted to Define American on June 23, 2011 at 10:05

We hope to share more stories that "define American" and beg critical questions about the state of immigration in our country. Submit your story here. Names are changed to maintain anonymity.

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