After Graduating as an Illegal Immigrant, a Struggle to Navigate the System

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Baruch College commencement ceremony set for Wednesday will mark five years since Lesslie Alvarez and Walter Barrientos graduated from the city university’s business school as the first in their immigrant families to attend college. But even as they celebrated, they were terrified commencement marked a conclusion rather than a beginning: The two were in the U.S. illegally.

When they graduated, it seemed as if the Dream Act would become law and provide undocumented young people like them -- who arrived in the U.S. as children -- a chance at legal status. But the law repeatedly failed to pass.

Instead, over the past five years, as their classmates climbed the corporate ladder, Barrientos and Alvarez negotiated a maze reserved for those in the shadows of American society: fighting the detention system, wading into the black market and mulling sham marriages.

Alvarez — with her unshakable Brooklyn accent — just barely remembers crossing the Mexican border in her mother’s arms as a two year old. Barrientos, a natural communicator with an infectious smile, arrived at JFK as an 11-year-old boy after his parents sent for him from Guatemala. The two are among thousands of undocumented students who graduate from college each year, most of them with no option to work but the underground economy.

Walter’s Journey

On the night they graduated, Barrientos cried himself to sleep. He managed to get a job in a Brooklyn warehouse packaging luxury sheets and towels. But his parents — a housekeeper and a construction worker — couldn’t stand to watch their college-educated son spend his days folding cardboard. So they supported him, and he began organizing other young people without papers.

He took an Amtrak train to Chicago in the fall after graduation for a conference with immigrant leaders. At around 3 a.m., Walter was shaken awake as the train neared Canada, and the Border Patrol was doing a sweep.

“For the first few seconds I was like, ‘This is not immigration,’ and then I was like, ‘This is it,’” he said.

Barrientos told the officers he was not a citizen, and had no visa or green card. He said he was then handcuffed and spent the next two nights in a detention dormitory with about 60 other immigrants.

Walter described the experience in a letter to friends as “extremely eye-opening and empowering.” What he didn’t tell them was he was panicked and embarrassed.

“I was like the kid that was getting detained so that’s what everyone was asking about,” he said. “It was like you have cancer.”

He was released on $10,000 bail, but he knew could be deported to Guatemala at any moment.

Lesslie’s Journey

Authorities never discovered Alvarez was in the US illegally, but she also felt imprisoned by her status. “I was an illegal alien,” she said. “I wasn’t like I was Lesslie, I’m XYZ.”

Upon graduating, she had to refuse all her elite finance job offers, and instead tended bar in Soho. But the sophisticated young woman who adored kayaking in Long Island Sound and read biographies for fun, was determined to put her degree to use.

“I finagled my way to working into working in corporations,” she said.

One Connecticut firm paid her in petty cash for financial analysis, another for marketing.

“I had to have connections,” she said. “People who knew my situation. People who literally paid me under the table.”

Mulling Sham Marriages

Then, two years ago, a legal path in the labyrinth appeared: marriage. Before it had not been a viable option for Alvarez since she entered the U.S. without a visa. But she discovered that her father had submitted a special petition, which meant that if she wed an American citizen, she could remain in the U.S. legally.

The opportunity brought with it new challenges: she did not want to get married just for papers.

“I actually was engaged for a while with somebody and he just kept pressuring me, and I just didn’t feel like he was the right one,” she said. “He could not understand why I wasn’t marrying him.”

At around the same time, Barrientos’ parents were urging him to marry a citizen, and to do it quickly. While he knew people pay thousands for fake marriages, he had friends who would do it for free.

Since he arrived on a tourist visa it was an option, and with the prospect of deportation looming, he was tempted and thought about it a couple of times a day. But he did not want to break a law and marry for papers.

And as it turns out, neither Barrientos nor Alvarez needed to. Alvarez met an American of German background.

“I finally fell in love. We got married,” Alvarez said. “And then we got my papers.”

Barrientos also fell in love — but he fell for another undocumented immigrant.

Cristina, a petite and spirited woman he knew from college, arrived from Ecuador as a child. They hatched a plan to move to Australia – where another friend had gone to receive legal status — with Walter leading the way on a student visa.

A Terrible Turn And an Opportunity

But then something terrible happened: Gang members allegedly assaulted Barrientos. He went to the police even though he felt mixed about turning in his attackers who were also Latino youth.

When he got called to testify in court, he was scared that he could be deported. But instead, getting assaulted became an opportunity for him: Barrientos qualified for a special visa for individuals who are victims of violent crimes. And if they got married, so did Cristina.

The American Dream

Both Barrientos and Alvarez attained legal status.

Just five years after graduating, Barrientos, at 26, has almost completed his Master’s in non-profit management, and works for a community foundation in Manhattan.

Alvarez, 28, is halfway through her MBA at the University of Connecticut and expecting her first child this fall.

But the ideal of the American Dream has been tarnished for them.

“There’s all this pride and all this saying that this country rewards hard work,” Barrientos said. “The story that we believed in, that drove us and our families for so long.”

His reality was very different: “Technically they’re just rewarding to me now that I’ve gotten beaten up. And if this hadn’t happened I could have been undocumented for years, for another decade.”

Neither is a permanent resident yet, which means they rely on work permits that expire and still have no opportunity to leave the country. And yet they know they’re the lucky ones.

“I’m still frustrated because our two stories kind of got resolved,” Alvarez said. “And there are just thousands of kids out there and they’re graduating right now, same thing and they’re going to go through the same process.”

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Comments [53]


There should be a documentary about what our lives are really like... The only way you all can have an idea how we "live".

May. 02 2012 04:57 PM
JC from California

Illegal aliens pay for 100% of their education, so don't think that they have to be thankful for getting a free education! Illegal aliens pay taxes for every purchase that they make in the US just like citizens do. And if an illegal alien is taking your job is because you are and incompetent citizen. How can you think that a person that can't even speak English is taking your job? Don't blame the immigrants for your economic situation, labor in the USA was destroyed by our big corporations that are outsourcing the labor to other countries. And lastly, you should be blaming your selfs for not buying USA made products that support our local economy, but instead we rather support cheap foreign labor. We are the ones tying the noose around our necks.

Feb. 26 2012 03:55 AM

Why not charge those children, for an example $10.000 fee in order to obtain those benefits. and must exclude financial aid.
those who take this seriously and want better life for future will pay the money no matter what, so it will reduce the amount of people who will apply for such things as dream act (if passed).
+ the government can make huge amount of money
imagine if more than 1 million students pay $ 10.000 for the government to give them a chance, govt could raise enough money to build that fence that candidates are talking about around the border.
Also after they gain the resident status they should pay double taxes for 10 years.
just an idea

Nov. 01 2011 10:06 PM

I have never seen such a long list with such selfish people leaving such selfish comments. The myth that we taxpayers pay the immigrants' living is a lie. They pay taxes too, in case if you didn't know. Every spring season I see hundreds of immigrant families paying taxes in my office in H&R Block. By the way, passing the Dream Act is not going to harm this country's economy. You'll be surprised what our tax money covers and who is really to take blame for our country's economy downfall. Here's a link that explains our country's economical consumption and downfall:
By the way, according to the history of the Mexican-American War taught in Mexico, the Americans forced the Mexican president to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe, or he would get killed. All history in an American textbook or in a Mexican textbook are biased, for each country explains their side of the story of the war. There is a gut feeling though that I doubt the Mexican president amicably signed that treaty, and we all should know that.
In the end, 100 years ago we unfairly took California, Arizona, New Mexico, and the etc thousands of square miles from Mexico. In another 50-100 years from now, more and more immigrants from all over the world and their american children are going to make up the majority of the U.S. population and will stop this injustice. We the U.S. stole from them first, so don't get so upset if they're just coming back. It's just karma hitting back at us.
Immigrants are not "aliens", they're humans just like you and me. People who don't like such demographic changes “should go back to Europe.” I don't think you would like a hispanic to say that to you, so think twice next time you say "go back your country".

Sep. 27 2011 03:46 AM
Roberta from MA

To smith:
BFD. My people came here legally. Theirs didn't.
The "they were here before you" argument is no argument at all.
And it's getting old, btw.

Jun. 05 2011 10:46 AM
lonestar from Earth

Earth, the only planet in the universe with life and it's infested by illegal human beings. Where you from?

Jun. 04 2011 02:29 PM

To Jim b from USA
why don' you go back to Europe or Africa? Do you know that their ancestors were here, in the American continent, before your family came to this part of America.

Jun. 03 2011 11:55 AM
Jim b from USA

Take your free education (paid for by American taxpayers) and go back to your own country to see if you can make a difference there. Be grateful for what you have been GIVEN and go home!! , please

The sob stories just go on and on, please make sure you take your criminal parents with you.

Jun. 02 2011 09:13 PM
Sal from Brooklyn

Well Said Ali. It seems to me that you understand this very well and I agree with you. As for Maria from NJ-what she fails to understand is that this is not a race issue its an ILLEGAL immigration problem. Those two in this story just happen to be from Mexico and Guatemala-yet I know a few Haitian and Eastern Europeans who fall in the same catergory and its still WRONG!

Jun. 02 2011 12:51 PM

By the way, Maria, since you seem to realize that our immigration policy should favor education and skills, then it stands to reason that we should NOT allow unskilled uneducated immigrants or illegal aliens, such as the PARENTS of these "students". Nor should we have our current heavy immigration from Latin America, since that's primarily based on family relationships and rewards immigrants who have no skills, no education, and nothing other than family ties to a US citizen.

Jun. 02 2011 12:17 PM

Maria from Teaneck, NJ
It is repugnant to see how many comments are propelled by prejudist and racist motives. If we were not so psychotic in this country and would really take advantage of those who educate themselves regardles of their color or background we would be like Canada who has been taking for years all the colored students that have graduated Suma cum Laude from US Universities and therefore,, benefiting from tyeir skills. I see a real lose for the US by loosing their educated because they came this way or that way or because they're not European descend, what a tragedy for the US and waht a bunch of moorons we have advocating hatred and discord!
Maria, Hispanics ARE of European descent. And you obviously are advocating for them because they're from your ETHNIC group. Hispanic is NOT a race and Hispanics may be of any race, including WHITE. If there'a racist here, it's you--because you have no argument in favor of illegal immigration other than to claim it's racist to oppose it. Fact is, the US admits more than 600,000 LEGAL foreign students annually, many of whom stay here because they are sponsored by employers. Furthermore, we admit more than 1.1 million LEGAL immigrants, 15-20% from just one country, MEXICO, because of our family reunification policy. If anything, our immigration discriminates against those who are NOT Latino and we should be reducing Latino immigration. We should certainly NOT be giving illegal aliens amnesty and increasing it.

Jun. 02 2011 12:14 PM
Maria from Teaneck, NJ

It is repugnant to see how many comments are propelled by prejudist and racist motives. If we were not so psychotic in this country and would really take advantage of those who educate themselves regardles of their color or background we would be like Canada who has been taking for years all the colored students that have graduated Suma cum Laude from US Universities and therefore,, benefiting from tyeir skills. I see a real lose for the US by loosing their educated because they came this way or that way or because they're not European descend, what a tragedy for the US and waht a bunch of moorons we have advocating hatred and discord!

Jun. 02 2011 11:37 AM
Joe from NEW YORK

Thank you Joe for your comments! I agree with you. These kids got a free ride and now they bitch-how sad. They should NOT be allowed citizenship-Leslie Alvarez proudly stated that she found a way to get a great corporate job! SHe has no right to be here! She took the job that an unemployed American Citizen had every right to take. Now she is going to UCONN probably on a scholarship. Is this fair? We need stronger immigration reform-and better I9 requirements-anyone obtain a SS card-they obviously cheated NOT NAVIGATED the system as the author of this story put it.

Jun. 02 2011 08:33 AM

By the way, Bill, when my grandparents came circa 1900 and when your grandparents came, the US did NOT have the welfare state it does now. Immigrants either supported themselves, died, or went home. No "free" medical care. No "free" education. No welfare. Quite unlike what even today's illegal alien gets (and yes, illegal aliens get welfare, under stolen SS numbers or on behalf of their US-born kids).

And Bill, do you really believe that the parents of these kids have paid anything like the full cost of their K-12 educations? Or the full cost of their college educations? Legal foreign students pay the FULL COST of their educations. Everyone else is subsidized to some extent at state universities.

Jun. 02 2011 07:49 AM

Bill from Connecticut
My grandparents immigrated here from Scandinavia in the 1920s. I recently found out they came here illegally.

Before you throw stones at these kids, I suggest you go find your grandparents' or great-grandparents' visas and see if YOU should still be here. And then think about if it really matters anyway.

These kids are hard-working and smart. Our country needs more people like them.

(FYI - they probably paid full price for their educations, as undocumented students don't qualify for financial aid, so perhaps we can all stop accusing them of getting a free ride for their education.)
Bill, there was no requirement for visas until about 1910. My grandparents came legally, as did millions of other immigrants, undergoing inspection at Ellis Island and other ports of entry. The fact that your grandparents were illegal aliens and that you think that it was perfectly fine for them to break the law is proof that illegal aliens pass on their disrespect for the law to their children, not a good thing in a country literally built on and by respect for the law.
And a good reason not to have more amnesties and to enforce our immigration laws.

Jun. 02 2011 07:33 AM

Janet from New York
The fact that hardworking, diligent, and ambitious students like the ones in the article have to live "on the edge" speaks volumes about why US immigration policies and practices bear revision.
On the contrary, Janet, it speaks volumes about how even "hardworking, diligent, and ambitious" people will lie, cheat, jump lines, and break laws. Can one say, Bernie Madoff? These "students" could and should have rectified their status before age 18 1/2 by applying for foreign student visas. THEY chose not to. In fact, at least one of them has deliberately worked illegally with her degree and committed tax evasion, a felony. Fact is, the people in this story are CITIZENS of their home countries and should be using their educations THERE.

By the way, Janet, US immigration policy favors family reunification. About 800,000 of the 1.1 million legal immigrants we admitted last year came under this policy. They were the parents, adult kids, and siblings of US citizens, and many are unskilled and uneducated. Shall we cut back on family reunification in favor of skilled educated immigrants? And of course, the PARENTS of these "Dreamers" should not be able to legalize, either.

Jun. 02 2011 07:30 AM
Janet from New York

The fact that hardworking, diligent, and ambitious students like the ones in the article have to live "on the edge" speaks volumes about why US immigration policies and practices bear revision.

Jun. 01 2011 08:09 PM
Bill from Connecticut

My grandparents immigrated here from Scandinavia in the 1920s. I recently found out they came here illegally.

Before you throw stones at these kids, I suggest you go find your grandparents' or great-grandparents' visas and see if YOU should still be here. And then think about if it really matters anyway.

These kids are hard-working and smart. Our country needs more people like them.

(FYI - they probably paid full price for their educations, as undocumented students don't qualify for financial aid, so perhaps we can all stop accusing them of getting a free ride for their education.)

Jun. 01 2011 06:48 PM

I think that instead of the dream act every illegal criminal like Leslie and Walter should serve in the US Military for at least 3 years to test out thier true love for America-however I think that IS from NY said it all! Way to go! I hope someone in GOVT is reading this and is realizing that these two criminals and their families are stealing the opportunities of actual Americans-oh and I wonder if Baruch College being a CUNY school charged them for out of state tuition? Probably not

Jun. 01 2011 04:50 PM

A citizen with commonsense, let's analyze the Dream Act. The bill last fall would have given 2.1 million "children" 10-year-work visas just for applying. Not to mention that because there were no checks and no punishment for lying, application process would have been rife with fraud, just like the 1986 amnesty. Then, too, the requirements were minimal: two years of post-high school education, no degree required OR 2 years of military service, if they wanted permanent status. Of course, having gotten a 10-year visa, it's unlikely "children" or their parents would have ever been deported. In fact, just as in this story, the children brought here illegally could have legalized their parents. And the president had the power to waive even the minimal requirements. In short, the Dream Act was a mass amnesty on a par with 1986.

Jun. 01 2011 04:21 PM

Bon62, someone who pays thousands upon thousands of dollars to be smuggled into this country full well understands that he is breaking the law. Someone who has to buy fake or stolen documents knows full well that he is breaking the law. In fact, in all of this, the illegal alien is generally the only one who can be sure that he is breaking the law. There are certainly some countries that knowingly aid and abet illegal immigration and even advertise and help illegal aliens enter. But most employers are caught between law and "diversity". An illegal alien who presents an SS number can't be looked at too closely or the employer might get sued for discrimination. Yet, look at who's fighting the mandatory use of eVerify--BOTH the US Chamber of Commerce and groups such as the SEIU, AFL-CIO, the ACLU, and LaRaza. These groups, right and left, are aligned against the interests of the AMERICAN worker. Illegal aliens are no more victims than employers are.

Jun. 01 2011 04:14 PM

What this story shows is that there ARE ways for illegal aliens to legalize. And these aren't even the easiest way. These "students" could have returned to their home countries at age 18, before the bar to re-entry kicked in, and applied for legal foreign student visas. Even community colleges accept foreign students. But these "students" apparently didn't want to take the risk of rejection that every would-be legal immigrant faces.

Jun. 01 2011 04:03 PM
BAW from Charleston, WV

They could enlist in the US Armed Forces; that is a fast-track to citizenship. Or they could take their American degrees back to their country of origin, where they would have a leg up on a good job there.

Jun. 01 2011 03:55 PM
stoner from Indiana

Both of my parents come to this country with with SPONSORS ... PROPER PAPERS, went to NIGHT SCHOOL to learn to read and write the English language and became US Citizens!!! I strongely believe ALL immigrants should do the same thing! Have some respect for the USA.

Jun. 01 2011 02:12 PM

Too bad, so sorry, give them their degree and then send them back to their homeland with an application for proper re-entry. THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES AND THESE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW IT!!!!!!!!! THEY WOULD BE TAKING JOBS THAT OTHER AMERICANS WOULD WANT AND DO NEED !!!!

Jun. 01 2011 02:11 PM
rsheeran from Rehoboth, MA

This is not the America I grew up in. This does not represent the values and principals of one nation under God. I read so many of these posts and they are mean spirited and spiteful. Yes, these are difficult times for the US, but are they any more difficult than WWII? The Great Depression? Many of our Grandparents went through those times and pulled together as a Nation. It was that ability to work side by side that made us great. I offer my hand in friendship and citizenship to Lesslie and Walter.

Jun. 01 2011 01:54 PM

From my understanding, they had to pay for their own education. I don't think they can get any financial aid. Furthermore, many of them said if they could they would pay taxes, but they just can't.
The real immigration problem is our corrupt government, who gets paid by the farmers in the south to seat and do nothing.

Jun. 01 2011 10:29 AM
ls from ny

The story of these two individuals will lead me to oppose the Dream Act.

They are illegal residents, which was the choice their parents made. They were educated at the expense of the taxpayer, a very generous gift.

Yet they complain that the American Dream did not do for them what they wanted, when they wanted. Their overall point is that they are owned something by this country, they deserve something that others don't. Their biggest regret is that they could not get high paying jobs to make large amounts of money. They express no gratitude for the opportunities they have had in American nor any desire to help others, to give back to this country. In a world of limited resources, they believe they deserve more than others who have followed the rules and also worked hard.

Citizenship is not an entitlement, it's a responsibility.

All of us, native born or naturalized citizens have a responsibility to our country "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."

I question why these well-educated individuals, who were given the gift of an education, did not return their their native countries to help their countrymen prosper.

It's sad that these selfish individuals may now be on track to become citizens. These are not the people that American needs.

Jun. 01 2011 10:22 AM
Sal from New York

I understand that the illegal immigration status of these children were the fault of the irresponsible parents-but how dare she finagle her way into obtaining a job-which by the way probably means she stole someones identity to obtain the corporate job-and how dare he say“ There’s all this pride and all this saying that this country rewards hard work" well if you dont like it GET OUT-as an American Soldier I am angry that he would say that! I wonder who paid for both thier college education or how many other ways they finagled one thing out of an American Citizen-I would seriously would fine the companies that hired them and fine the two of them to pay back whatever else. And the what the really SAD part of all this is that I am an American who is still struggling to "make it" while those to leeches will have probably have all the cars and houses that will be provided to them by living the American Dream-this is just just wrong and crazy-I hope they are reading this.

Jun. 01 2011 08:39 AM

These young adults are obviously bright and ambitious, but after all these years in the US, what did they think the definition of "illegal" is? And who did they think is paying for their education?

What were they thinking?

Jun. 01 2011 08:30 AM

As an economist, I see the immigration problem just like any other economical inconvenience. If there is a demand for something, a supply will be created to satisfy the demand. There are illegal immigrants because there are unscrupulous Americans willing to hire cheap and under the table workforce.
There is always going to be extreme poverty somewhere in the world where people will be fighting everyday to survive. Anything is better than the lives they had before, including living illegally someplace else. It's sad but we shouldn't be the ones accommodating all these people. However, we are accommodating them. Not because we are nice, but because we like to have the cheap labor around us. We like to see them putting their heads down when we speak with them. Ask yourself, do you talk to fellow Americans in the same way you talk to an immigrant, especially a Latino one? We enjoy having the power.
The only real way to end the immigration problem is to harshen the punishments to those who hire them. Forget about fines, I'm talking about 15 to 30 years of imprisonment. The immigrant commits the "crime" to become an illegal worker because in many cases it is the only way to survive and it barely understands the extent of its crime. Nevertheless, the citizens who hires them fully understand what it's doing, plus he has many other options than breaking the law.

May. 31 2011 10:16 PM
SJA from NYC

Legal or not, like it or not, immigrants are here and they make up a huge part of our society. They are not leaving. In some areas of our country (parts of suburban NY and NJ, for example) a large percentage of kids in the public school system are undocumented immigrants. If these kids have nothing to work for -- the hopes of college and good jobs out of their reach because the DREAM act still has not been passed -- they are more likely to not graduate and remain unskilled and possibly turn to crime. How is that good for our society? Why would we want these kids to grow up and be uneducated and unskilled (and possibly angry at this country where they have grown up)? Who does that benefit? No one.

As for the argument that these kids "broke the law" by coming here illegally, I do not believe we should be punished for the crimes of our parents. Furthermore, it's basically impossible to immigrate here legally from Guatemala or Mexico if you are unskilled laborer. So what choice did their parents have to begin with?

May. 31 2011 09:22 PM
Daniel Nunez-Penaloza from Boston, MA

I am a proud citizen of the USA. Have paid Income, Property and Sales Taxes, in full since I was 17. I became a Senior Technician in High Technology sector - am unemployed for almost 3 years. The story of Walter and Leslie was not given in all its dimensions or made totally clear, with all the trials and tribulations they went through, they STILL were breaking the laws of this country, for many years - it irates me when you blame this Society and not their parents who disrespected 10,000's of decent people standing in line outside Embassies. awaiting their turn to emigrate as welcomed people. On the other hand, WHY could these two who worked the system undeservedly, not return to Guatemala and Mexico? Are they too good, too Gringo to be reduced to living in their lands? Isn't an American degree better than any in those countries? I am a long-time unemployed person (who cannot even get a under-the-table job, as they did for years - which is Illegal, too), I could NOT cross the southern border show up at enterprises or a university and claim my Hispanic descendance to be "entitled" to a job. I have made commitments to this country, sacrifices, stayed clean (not in a relationship with a Gang, as Walter was or is). This report should be critical, not encouraging - we are a country of laws; more than one law was broken over many years, by Leslie and Walter - when will this issue be understood by the liberal media?

May. 31 2011 06:04 PM

I am first generation American. My parents are both immigrants. They both had hard times getting to America. My Mother's family all came over and it took about 5 years from when my Grandfather and Uncle came over, sponsored by a relative that was here, to when the rest of the family could come.

The immigrant struggle is very real. Yet, they all proved they wanted a better life by coming here legally. To enter the US illegally and live a life of lies, is disingenuous and an insult to those who followed the rules.

Legal resident workers with Visas get sent home all the time. A co worker of mine with a Master's Degree had to return to his country after 6 years. He had a house, cars, a life here and was hoping to stay. He was a tax payer and the type of immigrant we want. Law abiding and productive. He never even used any of our social programs.

Aside from the common sense that someone who came here illegal IS a criminal, the fair thing to say is, we deport legal residents with working Visas all the time, illegals should be deported too. Why should they get quick access to citizenship while those who did things by the rules get deported? Reward those who follow the rules.

Lastly, illegals get exploited because they do not have a safety net. they get employed without benefits. they get hurt and abandoned by criminal employers. They live in the shadows and can not truly be part of society because of the fear they will be discovered. They know what they are doing is wrong. Why don't we see what they already know? Illegal immigration is wrong.

Hiring an illegal should be a huge fine and jailtime.

May. 31 2011 01:09 PM

I am first generation American. My parents are both immigrants. They both had hard times getting to America. My Mother's family all came over and it took about 5 years from when my Grandfather and Uncle came over, sponsored by a relative that was here, to when the rest of the family could come.

The immigran

May. 31 2011 01:08 PM

Ah yes, two more success stories of people willing to lie, cheat and steal to make their dreams come true. They've disrespected the laws of their new country, committed one or more felonies to work here by lying on I-9 forms, using stolen and/or fraudulent SS numbers and IDs and committed income tax evasion. What shining examples to show how to beat the system. Shame on them!

May. 31 2011 12:44 PM
Antonia from Emerson, NJ

Both persons are admirable but what responsibility does America have to its poorly educated and historically discriminated minorities. Illegal aliens impose an unfair burden competing with the least fortunate Americans. Jobs that can be done by High School educated folks are rare and the 10 million plus illegals willing to work for union busting wages are not helping. Its it ironic that the same folks who brought you TARP like cheap labor and refuse to pass federal regulations making employers check if the person is legally here.

The average family of illegals in Phoenix earned over $33,000/year ( Pew Hispanic Center ). How much does the average family in Harlem of south central LA make? Less than $27,000.00

So why are so many social liberals killing unions?

Oh will the two persons ever pay back the American taxpayers for the services they stole?


May. 31 2011 11:54 AM
jihadisco from New York City

@Postgruaduado from Chicago, you stated "DREAMers like the ones in the article, true Americans."

You must be mad. Two illegals worked hard to undermine our legal system and you call them true Americans?

WTF much!

May. 31 2011 11:44 AM

You know what I think would be a "much needed change in immigration policy"? Allow more refugees from countries we destroyed last decade. At least when we finished terrorizing Cambodia there was some kind of remorse and refugees were permitted entry. I realize the American black market is fueling a low intensity conflict in Mexico but there are other people who also should have a chance to "dream" especially after the nightmare of American cluster bombs and depleted uranium in their homeland.

May. 31 2011 11:43 AM
Postgraduado from Chicago

Thanks, WNYC for this article. It's a shame that some of us have to jump through so many hoops in order to achieve our dreams. In the end all the hard work pays off building character and a strong moral foundation, these values is what makes DREAMers like the ones in the article, true Americans.

Thanks again for bringing awareness to a much needed change in immigration policy.

May. 31 2011 11:16 AM

once you become documented your story looses credibility and strength. you are no longer faces the struggles todays youth is. i rather hear from those at the forefront of this battle. this piece should have been written about others.

May. 31 2011 11:09 AM
Dana from NJ

ag from nj - I think it is wrong for you to imply that Eastern Europeans are fueling the criminal underground. I know MANY legal immigrants from Eastern Europe over the last four decades who worked honestly, broke their backs for their country, were discriminated against left and right and died prematurely from years of toil, my parents included. The recent immigrants are just the newest wave in immigrants, to give them any credit above any other group of immigrants is baseless.

. . .and to your point about criminal activity, there are MANY local examples in NJ of illegals from Latin America convicted of rape, murder, etc. I'm sure we and all find examples, so trying to argue that Eastern European criminals are worse than Latin American criminals is pointless.

May. 31 2011 10:23 AM

Common Sense In CA - Don't you think that these illegal immigrants have initiative precisely because of their illegal status? It is a sink or swim situation and they are in it for their survival - they are desparate and will do anything to get a job and keep it. Once that desperation is gone, when they are on a track for legalization and citizenship, they we lose their desperation and will raise their expectations just like residents and citizens?

As the child of legal immigrants, I know the immigrant struggle, and I know the stuggle of those who would love to come to this country and are denied. Why should illegal immigrants get amnesty? It doesn't work and only encourages more illegal immigration. Wasn't this proven when amnesty was granted in CA?

May. 31 2011 10:11 AM

I'm sorry, but this is very wrong. These two people were violating the law, and it seems as though we are glorifying their cleverness in evading and manipulating the law. It is difficult, I'm sure, to have been brought to the US as a small child. However, these individuals should blame their parents and no one else. Many children are raised in diffucult and unfair situations, and they deal with it rather than expect the law not to apply to them.

American degrees are highly valued in their home countries, and I am sure that if they were to return to their home countries, they could find employment in their professional fields. There are plenty of legal immigrants, residents and citizens who are willing and able to take on jobs and help employers mover our economy forward.

Employers who cry that they can find qualified worders forget to mention the meager salaries and lack of benefits they offer. If they were to offer livable wages and benefits, they would find someone. Of course, this would end up in us having to pay more . . . but isn't it worth it?

May. 31 2011 10:02 AM
a g from n j

question : does anyone from eastern europe or russia ever have to deal with this sort of treatment ?
i can't help but think about the russian guy in nyc, who went berserk and killed a bunch of people. and lets not forget the crimminal underground that is chock full of russian and eastern europeans. we don't talk about these people. if the nut who killed people, had been hispanic,there would have been a huge outcry. on the other side,we don't do much to help people from latin america,who have farmed our food for decades,done, and continue to do so much to keep the american machine going,and then, get so little in return.

May. 31 2011 09:56 AM
Carlos from Kansas

We have here one illegal alien (Alvarez) who worked in violation of the law and got her papers. She should have never been able to legalize her status.

Neither of them should have been here and as a result they will work to undermine our system of law so others likethem can gin the system and scoff our laws.

Certainly nothing to celebrate among these two. If they are here illegally and are over 18 years of age, they should be deported ASAP. If they're younger, their parents should be arrested for child neglect and the whole family should be deported.

May. 31 2011 09:23 AM

You can tell the difference between people with a real concern for human rights versus those who just want to be able to hire landscapers for 50 dollars a day by how they acted after Sept. 11th when dozens of Arabs disappeared literally overnight. The people who fought for the rights of those detainees are real immigrant advocates. I respect them forever. On the other hand the crass capitalists who use immigrant and Mexican interchangeably are just disingenuous and sinister.

May. 31 2011 09:07 AM

Hey, guess what, I'm a legal citizen who went to college and I don't have a job! Maybe if I burn up my social security card and pretend to be from overseas some of you bourgeois liberals will at least hire me as a servant or perhaps let me mow your lawn?

I'm getting sick of going in businesses with "Help Wanted" in the window and they hear my perfect English and tell me "Oh, we already hired someone...", yeah, right!

May. 31 2011 08:37 AM
Peg from Finger Lakes NY

Multinational Corporations, now given the right to be considered "individual citizens" are allowed to engage in cross boundary "Free Trade". Individual citizens, however are not allowed to engage in cross boundary freedom to work. As long as labor rates are cheaper in some countries than others, corporations will choose the cheapest labor rates. Until this "built in" unfairness of corporations vs labor is rectified, "Free Trade" is actually a system of slave labor and the enslaved will always seek more freedom anywhere they can find it.

May. 31 2011 08:09 AM
landless from Brooklyn

I forgot to add that I lived in San Francisco's Mission District for 25 years and have lived in those garage rooms. I also lived with street harassment from Latino males. My daughter was threatened by gangs in the school halls. All my anglo friends got assaulted by minorities. So I am not impressed by the past twenty years of illegal immigration.

May. 31 2011 07:46 AM
landless from Brooklyn

If business cared about the labor force, we would not have nine percent unemployment or thirty years of stagnant wages. Resentment toward illegal aliens may not be pretty, but people protect their interests. Just like the Republican agriculturalists who want cheap, easily exploited labor to pick crops. The landlords who are happy to rent back rooms in garages for 700 dollars a month. The average US citizen has been damaged by illegal aliens who have lowered wages and lowered quality of life through rental crowding. And think of the young black men with their 50 percent unemployment rate and poor school attendance. Where is the sympathy for them?

May. 31 2011 07:28 AM
A citizen with common sense (quite rare) from California

It is expected that people like Amy in the comments section here will bring comments that spark nothing but anti-immigrant flare. Please Amy, quit with the rhetorical questions and offer some concrete opinions or solutions. Let's analyze the DREAM Act from a businessman's perspective. Why would we want to get rid of educated, skilled, and capable individuals that can prove to be more of an asset than some of our country's youth? Seriously, today's youth is very "limited" to put it nicely. If a person was brought here at an age where he or she was not able to make autonomous decisions, why should we put that person on trial? Now, these children grew up here and know this country as their only home. These individuals paid for college by themselves, because they CANNOT apply for Federal Financial Aid. PLEASE, no one come here and say that these people are draining our resources for school; that's a load of bull****. I will acknowledge that our citizens are not getting the aid they should be getting from the government, but they ARE getting sufficient aid. Why I just got 16K for college expenses....please, that's more than enough to help me through the year for books and fees. If these people have the INITIATIVE (the same initiative a lot of our young citizens lack) to pay for their own college, out of their own pockets, then welcome to working America I say. That person will one day make an excellent employee in whatever field they choose to graduate in. If these people want to become citizens (actually under the DREAM Act, they would become residents FIRST) let them do so by proving their worth by graduating from college OR serving our armed forces. Some of these people will gladly serve our armed forces; you better believe that. And why are you complaining America? We'd have more money for Social Security from the labor these young people will offer. Did I mention these people will NOT qualify for Social Security benefits until around 12 AFTER becoming residents? Did I also mention the DREAM Act severely limits chain migration? Please read the bill before making comments people. Get your damn facts straight. Overall the DREAM Act is very "common sense" type of bill that benefits Americans as well as the people who would qualify for it. If these people want to become citizens so badly, I say LET THEM by serving our armed forces or proving their worth by graduating from college. And now, I will await the incessant flaming and completely irrelevant responses from xenophobic, uneducated and ignorant Americans....

May. 31 2011 06:55 AM
Amy from Las Vegas

Half of the people on this planet are living in poverty and would most likely jump at the chance to immigrate to this country. Does anyone think that we can economically or enviormentally sustain half of the world's population? Should people from Latin American countries be allow to cut in line because of their race or their geographic proximity? Before anyone claims that the line is not fair, please note that the US has the most generous immigration policy in the world, whether one measures it in raw numbers or immigrants allowed or as a percentage of our population.

May. 31 2011 03:02 AM

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