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February 1, 2015

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Immigration reform needed to keep dreams alive

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College can be hard enough. Between classes and the societal pressures of making friends, the road to higher education is filled with challenges. We expect these things when we go to college; what we don’t expect is spending nearly two weeks in jail.

In 1997, my family joined my father in the United States from the Philippines. As a 7-year-old, I was mesmerized. From my first plane ride to the clean, wide roads, everything about my new country seemed full of promise and possibility.

By the time I got to high school, I was ready to take advantage of what this great country had to offer. I had made friends, excelled academically and volunteered regularly with groups like Key Club in order to make a difference. I did so because it was my community, a community that was not only my home, but also one that gave me the opportunities that many others may not have had. It was through this service that I decided I wanted to become a nurse and devote my life to helping others.

In the summer of 2011, after my first semester of nursing school, I was detained. First in San Diego where my passport was found not to have a visa, and eventually at the Henderson Detention Facility. For nearly two weeks, I dealt with the stress, humiliation and frustration of simply trying to get my life back. All I wanted was to deal with the normal pressures of being a student, to worry about tests and homework instead of legal fees and jail time.

After I was released, I found myself in the middle of a slow and cumbersome process. My case was scheduled to be heard, but not for months, leaving me in a state of unease and uncertainty that was simply crippling. In June 2012, I found new hope through President Barack Obama’s announcement of the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals program, which is for people like me who came to the United States as children.

While I continue my journey down the road to citizenship, I see others passing me by, working hard and living their lives free of fear of detention or deportation. I fight every day to one day arrive at my destination of becoming a citizen. Having even the chance of becoming a citizen of the United States means every hard exam I stayed up for studying, every sweat I broke riding my bicycle to school, and every minute I spent in the detention center was worth it.

There are so many stories like mine of men and women who simply want to work hard and achieve the American dream. These are proud people who should be defined by the work they do and what they contribute to our communities, not their status on a piece of paper.

We have our best chance right now to pass critical comprehensive immigration reform, and change the lives of millions. Now is the time to make sure that the next 7 year old who comes to this great country with wonder in her eyes can do so without fear, and with the hope that her dreams will one day become a reality.

Anna Ledesma lives in Las Vegas.

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  1. The writer of this story, Anna Ledesma, does not qualify as to her coming here LEGALLY, so readers will assume that she and her family did NOT. There is a legal way to enter and live here in the United States of America, and it appears that overstepping the rules and laws is of no consequence to her and those like her. That is where most legal Americans strongly object to any kind of "amnesty" in immigration reform, myself included.

    It is criminal to enter any country in the world illegally. It appears with those who enter anyhow, do so with little to no comprehension or mental capacity, and seem to think that by good works they will be saved (a theme in religious morality). It is hard to fault those who have a work ethic and contribute to the greater good in their community.

    My father's brother married into a Mexican family that came to the U.S.A. legally and totally assimilated into the culture and are highly literate in the English language, and are respected business people working hard and contributing to the good of our country as well as the quality of their lives. It is a very fine line the writer, Ms. Ledesma is attempting to cross without notice in a immigration reform that grants amnesty.

    Technology has created accountability with everyone and everything, a fact that seems to fall upon deaf ears with illegal immigrants. Go through the legal process and you will have few, if any, worries. Truly, our Lawmakers continue to be conflicted over the immigration issue our country faces. We must be on a sustainable path economically in regards to growth, jobs, education, housing, and healthcare, and immigration is a high factor in this equation.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. "Now is the time to make sure that the next 7 year old who comes to this great country with wonder in her eyes can do so without fear, and with the hope that her dreams will one day become a reality."

    And what about all of the 7 year olds, with wonder and hope in their eyes, who are waiting to come to this great country....and wait and wait and wait because legal immigration limits are lower to offset the flood of people too selfish to wait in line with everyone else.

    Anna, your parents commit a crime when they bypassed the legal US immigration system in your case. So why appeal to us? Why aren't you asking your parents to explain how they could have put you in this position. Asking them why you have to pay for their criminal acts.

    Before you ask us to forgive and forget your parents choice to break the law for their own gain I would ask you to picture another little 7 year old girl in the Philippines whose family is following the rules and applying to bring her here legally. A girl who will never have what you have because your parents and people like them were too selfish to wait in line and wanted to bypass it.

    It is my sincerest hope that if any immigration reform plan is passed that includes a provision to allow illegal immigrants to stay, that it also include a requirement for each of those illegal immigrants to have to face someone on the immigration waiting list and say "Sorry, you don't get to come to the US. I stole your opportunity from you. YOU have to suffer for the criminal acts of myself or my family."

  3. All illegals should go thru what my wife Ana went through in 2000 when she overstayed her Visa to be in the U.S.A.

    One year of being forced to live outside of the U.S.A. away from our children.

    Doesn't sound fair, tell me, my wife Ana, our children... AFTER living 1 year outside of the U.S.A.