Realtor / Investor / Speaker
I have DACA and I am a Dreamer. I wrote a post sharing my story and shared a picture of the taxes I paid in 2016 of over $28,000. I mentioned that I didn’t ‘steal’ anyone’s jobs. I earned them through hard work...
Today, I run a real estate team that sells over $15M annually and I own 12 rental properties that fully cover my monthly living expenses. Technically, I am financially independent at the age of 28. Some might say I have accomplished the American Dream.
I am not American. I am one of the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants living in America. I am one of the 800,000 Dreamers protected under the DACA program.
19 years ago my parents made the sacrifice to leave their home country, Peru, to go in the search of the American Dream. We came to the US legally when I was 9 years old, but we became undocumented immigrants when my parents decided to over-stay their visas. Now, I am what Congress calls "A Dreamer," a person who was brought as a kid to the United States and is undocumented.
I had no idea growing up undocumented would come with challenges, fear, and disappointments.
When I was 16 years old I went all excited to the DMV to get my get my driver’s license. I gave them all of the documents I thought were required, but they told me that without showing that I was legal, I couldn’t get a one. It was then that I realized my life will be different than my friends.
I graduated 3rd in my high school class and got accepted into Florida State University in 2009… however because of my undocumented status I couldn’t qualify for any student loans or financial aid. I won scholarships due to my grades but most were taken back because I was undocumented.
I had enough money to pay for 1 year of college but I had to figure out a way to pay the remaining years. After volunteering at a non-profit in the IT department, they decided to hire me. But as I was going through the hiring process, they said that due to my immigration status, I couldn’t work.
At the age of 19 I made a grim realization that not only can I not drive or get student loans, but now I can’t get a job anywhere.
But I didn’t let that stop me, I remembered what my father told me, “The US is the land of opportunity, but it is up us to find it.” After doing a lot of research, I found out that undocumented immigrants can create their own LLCs. Isn’t that interesting? Uncle Sam wouldn’t let me pay taxes as an employee, but would happily let me pay taxes as a business owner.
So I created an LLC and began working as an IT contractor. One hot summer day in 2011, I had set up an appointment with a small business in Tallahassee. It was about 4 miles away from my apartment and at that point my bike was my only mode of transportation. I put a suit and a towel in my backpack. I rode my bike to the appointment and by the time I reached the building, I was drenched in sweat. I parked my bike in the back of the building, dried off with a towel, changed into my suit and walk to the front of the building to meet my client. After a successful meeting, I walk quickly to the back of the building, changed into my sweaty gym clothes and ride my bike back home.
This is what life is like when you are undocumented. You have to go above and beyond to achieve your goals. Instead of seeing the obstacles, I saw opportunities. I decided that making excuses wasn’t an option.
Then, one June afternoon in 2012 during my senior year of college, I hear a speech from Obama, in which he announces an executive order, called DACA. It granted Dreamers who came to the United States under the age of 16 that graduated high school, and have a clean criminal to have the opportunity to get work-authorization and a driver’s license. It also shielded us from deportation. I couldn’t believe it! I was 22 years old and I was finally gonna be able to do what all my friends were doing: driving and working.
The new executive order was a game changer as I began to apply for jobs! One company I applied for was General Motors. They hired me right on the spot because of my experience and a recommendation of a Dean. I told them that according to my lawyer, I would be getting my paperwork in about 3 months, right as I was graduating. As soon as the interview ended, I picked up the phone to call my parents to let them know I will be moving to Austin, TX in January of 2013 to start working as a Software Developer.
Now, let me tell you… that was one of the best calls I ever made. I made my parents proud! I was finally making progress on my American Dream!
In December 14th, 2012, I graduated from Florida State University in the top 1% of my graduating class, with 2 bachelor degrees in less than 4 years and without any student debt. I became the first person in my entire family to graduate college.
But then I faced another obstacle. December was ending and I am still waiting for my paperwork from immigration. I am supposed to move to Austin and start working in a couple of weeks… And I have NOTHING!
I was confused, frustrated and anxious. I remember thinking: “How am I going to move to Austin where I know nobody, I can't drive, and don't have a guaranteed job yet?” So I took a leap of faith and I moved to Austin anyway. I figured… If I have overcome all of these obstacles is just gonna be a matter of time until I find a solution. Because I have the mindset that if the door of opportunity is closed, I go through the window. In late January, upper level management at General Motors said they would hire my LLC so that I could work as a contractor while waiting for my paperwork! I was very grateful for that opportunity. Now the funny thing is... that while I was working for a car company, I was still riding my bike to and from work.
A few months later, I was able to get my paperwork from immigration and I finally became a full time employee. I even got the privilege to wait at the DMV for over 2 hours to get my drivers license!
When I quit that job at GM, I was 25 years old. I changed careers in 2015 and opened my own real estate team with a business partner. We help families reach their dream of home ownership. We hire painters, plumbers, and electricians. We have a full-time office manager. I am creating jobs for many Americans. I believe DACA recipients are an asset to this country.
On September 5th of 2017 Trump rescinded DACA and I felt devastated. But I was even more angry and frustrated at what then Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. He said: “[DACA| denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
This couldn’t be more wrong.
In that moment I did something I had never done before and shared publicly on facebook that I have DACA and I am a Dreamer. I wrote a post sharing my story and shared a picture of the taxes I paid in 2016 of over $28,000. I mentioned that I didn’t ‘steal’ anyone’s jobs. I earned them through hard work. Those non-profits, small businesses and even General Motors hired me because of the potential they saw in me.
I wrote this post to raise awareness of the opportunities DACA gave me, just like it did for the 800,000 DACA Recipients we have today. It went viral & got shared almost 1000 times.
Now, when something goes viral, you get people that support you but you also get haters. I got a lot of comments saying how my story inspired them, BUT I also got comments saying that I should go back to Peru, that I was still illegal and unwanted after all my accomplishments, and that if I was so smart, why didn’t I apply for my citizenship.
Instead of getting mad or irritated, I did my best to educate those people. To let them know that there is no way for us to get in line for citizenship, the line doesn’t exist and that we are not free loaders. We pay taxes just like all Americans do, we contribute to our community and to the economy.
I am just 1 DACA story, and each of us has a unique story. I share it with you today because my dreams are bigger than my lack of papers.
My Message to Undocuprofessionals
1. If people are trying to get to school, make sure they major in something that there are jobs for, such as STEM.
2. For new professionals, make sure sure that you control your expenses now that you have a job, don't increase your lifestyle and get stuck in the rat race.