Last October, LEO Weekly profiled the struggle of a Louisville student who, despite outstanding grades and dreams of being a lawyer, was stuck working at a restaurant while attending community college — and living in constant fear of deportation. She was one of the estimated 2.1 million young immigrants who was brought to America through no fault of their own by their parents, and was hoping for passage of the DREAM Act in order to have the chance to stay in the country legally and acquire a path to citizenship.
We didn’t use her real name — as she feared losing her job and scrutiny from immigration officials — but after President Obama’s decision to cease deportation of DREAM Act-eligible immigrants, Silvia Palacios is happy to now.
“Now that Obama has changed the policy, I’m so relieved that we’re able to actually come out with our name,” Palacios tells LEO. “And it’s one less thing to worry about, because people can actually see and understand the struggle that we’re going through.”
After being pictured and briefly quoted in The Courier-Journal following Obama’s policy announcement, Palcios feared that she might still lose her job once her employer found out — but instead he told Palacios that he was proud of her.. and gave her a raise.
“When we heard about it, to be honest, I was crying,” says Palcios. “It’s like you’re taking the world off your shoulders right now, because all this time I was in the dark.”
Palacios is now applying for a work permit, after which she will be eligible for a social security number, driver’s license, and government assistance with tuition. Because of this change, she will be able to transfer to the University of Louisville this Fall.
“At this point, I consider myself an American. I’ve been here so long and I feel like I deserve the same benefits as everybody else.”
Palacios now feels that since President Obama has put such faith in young people like her, she bears a great deal of responsibility towards showing that this policy change was the right decision.
“We’re going to have to do a lot more work to prove that we did deserve this, going to college and graduating and becoming somebody for them to be able to say ‘hey, we made the right choice,’ because now we can’t let our government down,” Palacios says.
While Palcios is grateful and relieved, she still hopes that the DREAM Act will pass Congress, allowing her a path to obtain full American citizenship.
“I feel like it actually has more potential than it used to, because if they’re already giving us a work permit and allow us to be here, they know who we are. I have so much hope right now, and I feel like it’s going to happen. If it’s not today, two years from now, three years from now, it’s going to happen eventually.”
Until that day comes, Palacios be studying at Louisville with aspirations of law school, and no fear of telling anyone exactly who she is and what she’s been through.
“Every once in a while I think about it and sit back and say ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is really happening.’ It still hasn’t really sunk in.”