When Supporting Your Family Earns a Criminal Record
by Noemi Romero, age 23, of Glendale, Az., a resident of 19 years in the U.S., originally from Mexico.
America was a free country. There, freedom is everything. Growing up, that was the picture I had. America was the country where you’re free to do whatever you want.
It all changed when I turned sixteen. I woke up excited, ready to go to the DMV and get my driver’s license like all my friends were doing – and then my parents told me that I was here illegally. I was undocumented. Reality sunk in. America was not a free country for me.
After graduating high school, my studies were on hiatus. I could not apply for college or legally get a job. My parents needed financial help to raise me and my younger siblings. I needed to find a way to contribute.
Then Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was announced. Maybe there was a way to get legal status after all! This pushed me even more to figure out a way to make money. I needed to save enough money for a lawyer to see if I could even qualify for DACA.
A friend told me that a store in my neighborhood would hire me even though I was undocumented. I just had to provide any proof of identity – even if it wasn’t my own. Earlier that year, my mother was arrested and detained, but was not deported. She had a temporary work permit because of the incident, so I used it to apply for the job at the grocery store.
Then a few weeks later, Sheriff Joe Arpaio ordered a raid on my workplace. Under Arizona’s new laws, those falsifying their own documentation for any purpose are criminally charged with identity theft.
When I got arrested, I felt the anger. I am not able to work, I am not able to get into school, I’m not able to do so many things because I wasn’t born in the United States.
All I did was report to work that day. Why is that crime?
Noemi is a young woman living in Glendale, Az., who has spent almost all of her life in the United States, dreaming of living with the freedom to simply work and go
to school. Since Noemi is undocumented (and therefore can’t be hired
legally in the U.S.), she used her mother’s work permit to get a job to
help support their family. She was arrested during a raid by Sheriff Joe
Arpaio at her workplace and was charged with identity theft (under
Arizona’s new laws those falsifying their own documentation for any
purpose are charged with identity theft). This prevents her from
qualifying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). At the
time of her arrest she was also working to save money for a lawyer to
review her DACA application.