LETTER FROM A DREAMER
A letter from a dreamer,
I was born is Guatemala in 1987. When I was only 8 years old my father, a Coronel in the Guatemalan army, was assassinated by rebels. Fearing for our safety, my mother brought me to the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident.
In 2006, while attending Laguna Hills High School, my mother and step-father divorced. My mother became the sole provider. I looked on as she struggled financially and in an effort to help out, I began chipping in on rent, I took over the family car payment and helped care for my three younger sisters, all natural born citizens.
Like any American student, I was overwhelmed with school, sports, a job, and my new financial burdens. I made a mistake during that period that I deeply regret to this day, and since then, I have suffered the consequences.
In 2008, I was convicted for possession of marijuana for sales. Once in jail, my public defender promised me that my immigration status would be protected and that I would soon be released. I pled guilty in a plea bargain - aggravated felony.
Years later, that plea would result in deportation proceedings…
I love this country and have forged a beautiful law-abiding life. I’m a working professional at a well-established company and have had no criminal record since 2008. I pay my taxes and regularly contribute to my community by volunteering, delivering food to the elderly. I have worked very hard and been very responsible. I consider the United States to be my home. From the first moment that I arrived in the U.S., I have sought only the American Dream and now we almost have it, I am engaged to be married!
Being on probation for three years, paying fines to the court and completing 780 hours of community service was a wake-up call to my life. My sentence served its purpose of teaching me to obey the law and helping me rehabilitate my life.
I had no idea that I would eventually face deportation proceedings. If I had known this would be the result, I wouldn’t have taken the plea bargain and would have fought the case as necessary so that it would not affect my legal status. I trusted my public defender with my future, but it was in vain.
In 2014, I visited Guatemala to see grandmother who was very ill. Upon returning, I arrived at LAX, where I was told that I was being denied entrance in to the United States. I was detained and questioned for 10 hours, my legal documents were confiscated and I was released with little information on what to expect, other than to 'wait for a letter from immigration.'
This was the first time I had encountered any issues regarding my immigration status. It wasn’t until I hired an attorney that I discovered my plea bargain in 2008 made me eligible for deportation.
I was stunned.
Six months after I was detained, I finally received a letter from immigration. It stated that I had a mandatory appointment with an immigration officer to review my case. When the day of the appointment came, my fiancé and I nervously waited in the lobby of the immigration office. When my name was called, the officer told my fiancé she had to wait in the lobby and that he would return get her in about five minutes...
I walked with the officer into his office where two armed immigration officers were waiting to put me into custody. I spent the next three weeks at an immigration detention center. At that point, I felt that I would never be released in the Unites States. I thought I would be deported from that facility to a place I barely knew.
This case would go on for the next four years. Day by day, I lived in fear of what I would lose if I were to be deported. It felt as if I was being punished for the same crime twice. It felt like the punishment was extraordinarily extreme given how I had already fulfilled my sentence.
The only option I had was to rigorously fight for my future in the United States. I retained an immigration attorney and a criminal attorney. The goal was to reopen the case from 2008 and have it reheard and resentenced.
After years of continuations in court, the turning point of my case came when marijuana became legalized in California. A law was passed that applied to cases retroactively. With this and the use of my 6th Amendment Right to effective assistance of counsel, we were able to finally win the criminal case.
Without a criminal record, the immigration court no longer had grounds for my deportation. My case was dismissed in March 2018.
Kevin Kensinger understands the challenges immigrants face. He has listened carefully to my story and has shown compassion. He is enthusiastic about immigration reform. He has demonstrated that he views immigrants as an asset, not a liability. When he says, “We Have Things To Do,” he means it. For that reason, I will be supporting Kevin Kensinger as Independent candidate for Representative of California’s 48th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A DACA Dreamer