When Nelly was nine years old, she came to the United States with her parents. Scared and unable to speak the language, she was aware of one thing: that her parents came here to provide her with a better life, and that she would do all that she could to succeed. So she learned English, excelled at school, graduated at the top of her class with a 4.0 GPA, was elected class president, and even served as Cadet Commander of her high school’s ROTC program – all while holding a job to support her family.
Upon graduating, Nelly had hoped to serve her country in the military, with eventual dreams of becoming a police officer. “I took the military entrance exam and got very high scores. I was set to get a good job in the army,” she said, “but when it came time to submit my documentation, I couldn’t go any further.”
Not letting it deter her, she applied to study Criminal Justice, in an attempt to follow through on her dream of becoming a police officer. Because of her outstanding record, she was accepted to multiple schools, but she could not afford them without financial help. When Nelly entered and won contests for merit scholarships, she was disappointed to discover she wasn’t eligible because of her undocumented status.
With no hope of serving in the military or becoming a police officer, Nelly does maintenance work and cleaning at an apartment complex in Texas – hardly a position that matches her proven abilities. She has a young daughter, as well.
“I pay my taxes, I pay car insurance, I pay my bills on time, I work to support my family,” Nelly explains. “We are working to be good citizens and that is all we want.”
Unfortunately, she has nowhere to turn. The lawyer she asked for help gave them little hope. His suggestion? To live with the consequences of a life she did not choose and return to Mexico – a place she hadn’t been since she was a child – leaving her daughter behind or taking her to a strange new country. There would be no guarantee that she would be allowed to return, and a strong possibility that she’d be issued up to a ten year bar from returning to her family.
In an ideal world, Nelly would be able to live up to her full potential: join the military, serve as a policewoman, or return to school. But until Washington displays the courage needed to fix our broken immigration system, Nelly – and the millions like her – have few options. Their dedication to this nation is being squandered.