When my older sister and brother turned 15, they got the chance of a lifetime: As undocumented immigrants who came to Utah from Mexico as young children, they were allowed to apply for work permits and protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Today my 22-year-old brother works as a mechanic, and my 21-year-old sister helps run the after-care program for the Park City School District in Utah.
By the time my turn came around a year-and-a-half ago, President Trump had already announced the end of the program. Older DACA recipients were allowed to get extensions, but I lost my chance to apply at all.
But I have new hope. Next week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Dream and Promise Act that would allow young immigrants like me to file for permanent residency and eventually citizenship.
Not only would such legislation allow me to stay in the country I’ve called home since my mother carried me across the desert from Mexico into the United States when I was 3 years old, it would give me the chance to apply for something else I’ve wanted deeply: A part-time job.
I’m 16 years old now and the only person in my group of friends without a job. My dream is to work in retail at the teen clothing store PacSun in Park City. I don’t care if I’m working the register or folding clothes all day. I just want the chance to prove to my parents and myself that I am a responsible adult who can earn her own money.
I’ve found other ways to earn spending money by babysitting my little cousins or helping out my mom around the house. But I’m disappointed that I can’t make enough to buy the things I need for school, like a laptop computer. My parents had promised to help me make car payments on a used Jeep Wrangler, but I’ve had to put that dream on hold until I’m allowed to get a real job.
But of course, it’s not all about money. I feel really left out. I’m as American as anyone else. And I want to be working a typical teen job like everyone else I know. I’m a really hard worker, and I like the feeling of doing a good job. I feel like I’m missing out on a basic life experience.
People tell me to be patient, but I’m feeling frustrated. So I hope that Congress passes this bill. I know there are lots of other people like me whose lives would be changed : 1.3 million Dreamers in the United States and more than 11,000 in Utah. In fact, a study by New American Economy shows that 93 percent of Dreamers are employed. I just wish I could be one of them.
As time goes by, I’m missing the chance to get valuable work experience, build my resume, create a savings account and save for college. I’m grateful that I have the chance to volunteer with children at Holy Cross Ministries in Park City a few hours a month, but it’s not enough. I still have a bad feeling in my stomach every time my friends say they can’t hang out because they have a shift at the local Burger King, Walmart or Smith’s grocery.
More than anything, I want the same opportunities. I want to be a good employee and deliver the best customer service I can and be a proud member of our community. I want to show the world that I belong here.
Marisol Cuevas is a junior at Wasatch High School in Heber.