Immigration Stories: Working Hard to Achieve an American Dream

The following story is part of a series of Immigration Stories, in which Catholics from the Diocese of Camden will share pieces of their journeys with us. This series is running in advance of two special immigration-related events in the diocese: Bishop Sullivan will celebrate a Mass for Immigrant Families on May 3 at 7:30 pm at Divine Mercy Parish in Vineland, and May 5 has been designated “Justice for Immigrants Sunday” throughout the diocese. This Sunday will be observed with prayer and a postcard campaign to lawmakers in Washington, urging comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for our immigrant sisters and brothers.

This reflection was written by a young woman named Karla.


My name is Karla, and I live in Pennsauken and belong to St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral. I am studying to become a graphic designer at Camden County College. I wish one day to enter the business industry and own a coffee shop franchise and sell coffee from around the world.

I was born in Guatemala, and crossed the border into the United States when I was six years old. My goal at that time was to meet the father who I had seen only through a photograph. He had moved to the US to help my mom and me financially.

I remember crossing the border into the United States. It was harsh. I was really cold, and wore four jackets, but I kept trembling. My cousin and I were scared of cars, thinking they were the border patrol. I remember passing a field that had plants with thorns. I remember hating it because I was scratched from head to toe.

We were happily reunited with my father, but as time passed by other problems rose up. The first came when I tried to apply for a driver’s license – I learned what it meant to not have a social security number. I learned that day that I was an immigrant.

But the hardest thing was not being able to receive a scholarship that I was given because I did not have a social security number. The scholarship I had received was NJ Stars, a program that paid two years of college in New Jersey as long as I was in the top 20 percent of my graduating class.

I worked hard to stay in the top 20 percent of my class at Pennsauken High School. This meant sleepless nights and taking extra classes, which meant I didn’t have a lunch time like most students and I had to give up a lot of my free time to studying.

When I realized I didn’t have a social security number when applying for my driver’s licence, in a matter of seconds the scholarship I received vanished, and along with it went the three years that I had worked hard to earn it.

At that point in my life I felt dismay and fell into a great depression because all that I had worked for was tossed away. But during that saddest part of my life the one thing that kept me going was my mom telling me, “Never give up.”

I continued to work hard, and in 2010 I graduated as an honor student in the top 15 percent of my class. Although there was still college to worry about, my mom said, “It doesn’t matter if it will take 10 years or even 20. But you will graduate from college.”

Just as she said, I continued to college, and although it is hard financially because I do not receive federal aid, I keep striving to do my best – even if it means doing extra jobs like babysitting and face painting to afford school. I will graduate in May 2013 as a Phi Theta Kappa honor student. I will show that I did not give up.


One comment

  1. Pingback: Immigration Stories: 5 Things I’ve Learned | The Ampersand

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