Nini Baesa - Define American

Nini Baesa

Fort Washington, MD

Meet Gabriela. A DREAMER… well almost… She missed the age-at entry requirement by a couple of months.

After reading her story, don’t you think she more than deserves a shot too?

“I, Gabriela Monico, hereby declare as follows: My name is Gabriela Monico. I am a resident of California. I was born in San Salvador, El Salvador. I came to the United States in November 2005 on a tourist visa.

I turned 16 on August of that same year. My father immigrated to the United States in 2003, when I was 13 years old. My father left El Salvador because he could not earn enough money to support my brother and I.

My family sent me to the States to reunite with him 2 years later. My father and I lived in Azusa, California until I was eighteen years old. I attended Azusa High School from 10th to 12th grade.

I was placed in a program for English Language Learners (ELL). In spite of the language barrier and living in poverty (my father and I lived in a trailer, sometimes without enough money to eat), I transitioned into regular English classes in one semester and into the Honors/Advanced Placement Program in a year. In 11th and 12th grades I not only excelled in honors and AP courses but also at being active in extracurricular activities which included tutoring middle school English language learners, being a member of Azusa City Library’s Teen Advisory Council and the National Honors Society, and playing in the Varsity Tennis and Track and Field Teams.

During 12th grade I was already ranked in the top 10 of my graduating class, that year I was also named AP Scholar with Distinction by the College Board after passing more than four AP tests with a perfect score, including the AP US History Test.

I graduated from high school with a cumulative 4.2 GPA and earned acceptances to top colleges such as UC Berkeley and UCLA. My father was unable to help me pay for college expenses given that he only earned $10,000 per year, but I didn’t give up my dream of going to college and decided to attend UC Berkeley. I applied to several scholarships hoping that they would cover my college expenses.

I got enough scholarship money to pay for tuition my first year but not for room and board so I was forced to commute three hours, five days per week from a friend’s apartment in Davis to Berkeley and vice versa. I would wake up at five in the morning from Monday to Friday in order to take two buses and be on time for my ten a.m. class.

In order to make ends meet, I worked at an office thirty hours a week while completing my first year at Berkeley as a full time student. During my second year I was able to move from Davis to West Oakland but was once chased by a man during my evening commute.

Out of fear, I decided to save enough money to move to Berkeley during the second semester of my second year in college. I started running out of scholarship funds my second year in college; I had accrued a $7,000 tuition debt and my registration was blocked, which meant I could not register for classes or check books out of the library.

Luckily, by the end of the school year, I was awarded the Cal Dream Scholarship, which allowed me to go to school the following years. Circumstances pushed me to become a leader, after facing extreme financial hardship and being looked down upon because of my immigrant background, I became aware of the problems my community faces and felt the urgent need to act and stand up for what I believe in: justice.

Although I had limited free time, I made use of it by getting involved with a campus organization called Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education. My work with Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education helped me become aware and passionate about immigrant rights and social justice issues. I also became heavily involved in community work through organizations such as People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), Filipino Advocates for Justice (FAJ), and UC Berkeley’s Multicultural Community Center.

In addition, I co-taught a creative writing class at UC Berkeley for undocumented students and will be assisting a professor with a class on undocumented immigration in the Spring of 2013. A year ago, I became a member of the Educator for Fair Consideration’s Legal Case Analysis Team, which gave me knowledge about the US immigration system. The extra-curricular activities above, along with the curriculum I was exposed to in my major (Ethnic Studies) and minor (Education), re-awakened my childhood dream of becoming an immigration lawyer.

While I have been equipped with the knowledge, lived experience, and passion to pursue a career in law, unfortunately, I lack the proper legal status to one day practice it.

Because the federal DREAM Act and DACA has failed to include individuals who immigrated as minors to the US after the age of 16, I am still undocumented. In spite of what the future has in store, I continue to work with my community while simultaneously doing what I need to do to eventually get to law school.

I am currently going into my last year of college and will be graduating with Departmental Honors. In spite of working multiple jobs and holding several leadership positions, I have made it to the Dean’s Honors list for the past two years and will be able to graduate with a 3.8 GPA.

Next fall I will be applying to PhD programs in order to become an immigration expert in the future. I hope to attend law school upon completing my PhD program. I want to have the opportunity to be fully integrated into this nation so that I can help others fulfill their dreams.

If I were forced to move back to El Salvador, I would be in danger given that gang violence has escalated dramatically over the past years. I will graduate with an American degree and honors in this country, it would certainly be a waste for the US to send me to El Salvador.”

Let's Talk

It's time for a new conversation about immigration in America, and it starts with us.

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