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Originally published September 7, 2012 at 5:32 PM | Page modified September 7, 2012 at 5:32 PM

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Op-ed: Dream Act: Giving hope to those living in the shadows

President Obama's decision to give temporary waivers for young illegal immigrants has given hope to millions of uncertain youth living in the shadows, writes guest columnist Xochitl Alejandra Rojas.

Special to The Times

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PRESIDENT Obama's decision to grant temporary deportation waivers has given hope to millions of uncertain youth living in the shadows. Until now, we lived with the fear that at any moment we could be deported.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Process provides temporary deportation waivers for young people like me, who were brought to this country as children. We were allowed to start applying in August.

Many of us can barely remember our birth country. Our lives are grounded in the United States. We go to school here, find jobs to help our families and contribute to our communities and then use these funds to pay for school. Many of us are honor students and valedictorians.

All of us have dreams and aspirations, but there is a huge obstacle holding us back. It's our legal status. Without this, we cannot receive financial aid or apply for most scholarships. Those who find a way to pay for school can graduate, but cannot find work because they do not have work permits.

I am one of these dreamers hoping and waiting for the full DREAM Act to pass, which will give me a path to citizenship.

My parents came to the United States, my father on a visa, and worked two jobs each to bring my two brothers and me over here from Mexico when I was only 3.

We came to the United States because my father was active in the labor movement in Mexico. He was blacklisted by several company owners and could not find work. A relative told them they should come to America. What wouldn't a parent do to provide for their family and to give their children a better chance in life?

My family settled in Seattle. My parents worked while my brothers and I started school. But things weren't easy. After staying in a shelter, we were able to get a basement apartment, but there was no water or carpet, just a cold cement floor we slept on. I feel God really looked out for my family in that time -- he used many people to bless us.

My parents always told us about our legal situation, explaining the dangers to us, and warning us not to talk to anyone about it. I always felt like a normal American, except with a secret. I felt different for the first time in college, when people said "those illegal aliens" should go back to their country.

I graduated from South Seattle Community College on the dean's list in a nursing course and got a job that was perfect for me. My supervisor had let me know she wanted to promote me. I didn't make it that far. I lost my job because of my legal status.

I was so depressed I stayed at my prior grocery-store job. I grew up here. I have always been a good student and striven to achieve my dreams, but a little paper is keeping me from doing what I would love to do: take care of others and fill a nursing shortage in this country.

I am now 23 and I have my own family. I am married to my high-school sweetheart who is also a dreamer like me and we have a beautiful 3-year-old boy. My husband works two jobs and I work at the grocery store to save up tuition money for continuing study. Since I heard about Deferred Action, I not only started my application, but also got more involved in my community, volunteering with OneAmerica to make people aware of the need for the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform.

We must continue to fight with everything we have. It is our life and it is our children's future. It is the future of our America. We are America.

Xochitl Alejandra Rojas resides in Burien and is studying to become a registered nurse.

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