My American Dream

M - Los Angeles, California
Entered on June 4, 2007

Age Group: 30 - 50
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My American dream is simple—traveling, buying my own home, retiring when I turn 60, avoiding traffic tickets, and becoming a legal resident of the United States. Yes, I am an illegal immigrant.

I arrived here when I was 15. I was miserable at the idea of being here illegally. If you know me, you know I am the last person who would break the law. But I knew my parents only sent me here hoping that it would mean a better future for me, one free of the promised poverty waiting in my native country—a country where people graduate with degrees in medicine but work as manual laborers, where every day thousands of hopeful visa applicants wait in line to leave the country, where working overseas as a housemaid pays better than a white-collar job domestically. I would not see my parents for eight years. Meanwhile, I obtained a bachelor’s degree and graduated in the top one percent of my class.

Today, I am a working, taxpaying illegal resident of the United States.

Like most other illegal immigrants, I came here with little more than the hope that being in the United States will help me make my family’s dreams come true. When I was growing up in my country, I grew up with the impression that being in the United States was like stepping into heaven. We all looked in envy at the immigrants returning from “the States.” We wanted to be like Americans. Unfortunately, the ingrained corruption and lack of law enforcement caused my country’s economy to deteriorate so badly that workers had to look abroad for jobs if they ever hoped to move out of poverty. I do not know if we illegal immigrants really drain more than our fair share of the nation’s resources. For my part I pay at least 30 percent of my wages in taxes. I try to be as law-abiding as possible, because I want to stay “under the radar.”

One thing I know—from the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower to the migrant workers working in today’s farms—America was founded on the blood and sweat of immigrants. I believe that it is the first generation immigrants like me who make the best American citizens because while my heart breaks for my native country, I love the United States for the opportunity it has given me and my family. I know that living in America is a gift not to be taken for granted.

I have my American dream and I believe it is no different from the American dream of the native-born American. Everyday I work, I hope, I pray that my biggest dream will come true—that someday I will be given the chance to proudly say, I am an American (legally).