Culture

Gabriela Ledezma’s Turn at the American Dream

undocumented

Gabriela Ledezma is waiting for her turn.

She challenged the odds by working two jobs, by transferring from community college to get to UC Berkeley, by simply leaving home.

Still, she is looking for the day when it’ll be her turn. Her turn to attend law school. Her turn to join the Army and hopefully become a JAG attorney. Her turn at the American Dream.

Because despite her relentless drive, there’s one obstacle that clouds her dreams; she’s undocumented and for the last 20 years she’s been trying to clear this hurdle.

“When I graduated from high school I realized my true limitations,” Gabriela said. “Once I enrolled into community college and they charged me $12,000 things became real – but I welcomed the challenge.”

Gabriela Ledezma
Courtesy of Gabriela Ledezma

Gabriela, who is now 23 and moved from her native Mexico to California when she was three, is double-majoring in psychology and legal studies at UC Berkeley. She entered Cal as a psychology major hoping to become a psychologist, but admits she fell in love with the law and will apply to law school once she graduates in 2016.

Before her acceptance to UC Berkeley, – one of the highest ranked universities in the nation, Gabriela was enrolled at Rio Hondo community college in Whittier, Calif., during a time when her family was struggling financially. They moved several times throughout different suburbs in Los Angeles and Gabriela’s three-bus commute often caused her to miss class. Eventually she had to drop out one semester. And she thought it was the end of her academic road.

“At that point I thought to myself, ‘That’s it. You’re done with school, you’re going to have to work for the rest of your life.’ I also thought, ‘even if I go back to school, a good university is not going to want me.'”

After taking a semester off, Gabriela returned to Rio Hondo to finish general education in 2013. She thought major universities wouldn’t accept her because of her legal status, but credits her college counselor for encouraging her to apply to public universities, including UC Berkeley where she was accepted.

Upon receiving her letter of acceptance, Gabriela was once again faced with another set of curveballs. The first was trying to afford her big move to San Francisco by taking on two fulltime jobs.

“I would wake up at 4 a.m. to be at Starbucks by 4:30 a.m. and work until 1 p.m. After my shift I would head home and nap for a few hours then head to the [Los Angeles] Times and work from 6 p.m. to midnight.” She says it was tough, but it’s what she needed to do.

Gabriela was relieved when she was granted a Haas Dreamer Scholarship, the Berkeley Scholarship, and a couple undergraduate grants, but this took her to realize she’d have to challenge another obstacle: her parents.

Gabriela Ledezma
Courtesy of Gabriela Ledezma

Coming from a family with traditional values, her parents were the least thrilled about the possibility of her moving away for college. Because of her family’s Christian morals, Gabriela’s parents expected her to live at home and move out only after marrying as both her older sisters did. When the news of her scholarship broke, she admits her parents thought she was lying only to leave home. Then the anger set in.

“(My dad) would always say, ‘The only way you’re leaving this house is with a husband … .’ When I finally told him I’m really leaving to San Francisco, he said, ‘You want to leave then you’ll have to figure it out on your own.’ He was very upset. He thought I just wanted to leave them. It was hell,” she said.

Her parents continued pressuring her to reconsider her decision for something closer like Cal State LA or UCLA. It wasn’t until her parents drove Gabriela to visit the Berkeley campus around Thanksgiving that they understood the opportunity she had at hand and changed their minds.

Gabriela Ledezma
Courtesy of Gabriela Ledezma

Gabriela conquered her financial setbacks and finally convinced her parents her move wasn’t to get away from them but to continue her education, but she had yet to battle with possibly the strongest limitation: her undocumented status.

As Gabriela experienced in community college, enrolling in school as an undocumented student meant once again not being eligible for all scholarships and potentially paying full tuition price. But since she defeated her financial setbacks once, this wasn’t going to hold her back again. Now her biggest barrier is the uneasiness of not knowing if her status will limit her career goals.

“My oldest sister wanted to enroll in the U.S. Army, but wasn’t allowed to because of her immigration status. It crushed her,” Gabriela said.

Seeing firsthand how her sister had to change her career goals isn’t causing Gabriela to reconsider her path. She’s committed to making sure her efforts are fruitful.

“I have a dream. I want to join the Army Reserve while I attend law school,” she said.

Gabriela Ledezma
Courtesy of Gabriela Ledezma

Gabriela dreams with doing something meaningful with her career. She wants to become a JAG lawyer. But despite her drive to succeed academically and professionally, Gabriela’s afraid she won’t be accepted into law school and all her hard work will be discredited because of her immigration status. And she’ll have to wait yet again.

Gabriela and her family petitioned for residency in 1995 and are working with the Berkeley legal clinic to receive help. If their petition isn’t accepted, they will try to file through her oldest sister’s whose citizenship is currently being processed.

“I’ve been in the United States for the past 20 years of my life. I’m 23. At this point, I’m just waiting for Homeland Security to finally say, ‘It’s your turn.'”

Trump Would Do Well In Remembering That His Grandfather Begged To Be Spared A Family Separating Deportation

Culture

Trump Would Do Well In Remembering That His Grandfather Begged To Be Spared A Family Separating Deportation

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Familia, what you are about to read is rich. Harper’s Magazine has recently uncovered and translated a German letter written by Friedrich Trump, President Trump’s grandfather. At the time of its writing, in 1905, Friedrich Trump was living in Bavaria as an “illegal alien” in what was then Bavaria, and had just received a letter of deportation. Trump responded by penning a letter begging for repatriation to Prince Luitpold. Prince Luitpold rejected Trump’s deeply reverent yet desperate request on behalf of his family’s mental health. The family later resettled in New York.

“Most Serene, Most Powerful Prince Regent! Most Gracious Regent and Lord!,” it begins.

Credit: @PeterFotopoulos / Twitter

Trump begins by explaining how his “parents were honest, plain, pious vineyard workers.” They strictly held [him] to everything good.” He then goes on to explain that he “apprenticed to become a barber,” emigrated to America and with “God’s blessing” he “became rich.” He moved back to Kallstadt, his birthplace in Bavaria, because his wife “could not tolerate the climate in New York.” He brought his “dear family” back to Kallstadt.

He pleads on the count of not separating his family.

Credit: @glennf / Twitter

“The town was glad to have received a capable and productive citizen. My old mother was happy to see her son, her dear daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter around her; she knows now that I will take care of her in her old age. But we were confronted all at once, as if by a lightning strike from fair skies, with the news that the High Royal State Ministry had decided that we must leave our residence in the Kingdom of Bavaria.”

“We were paralyzed with fright; our happy family life was tarnished.”

Credit: @fofochavez / Twitter

“My wife has been overcome by anxiety, and my lovely child has become sick. Why should we be deported? This is very, very hard for a family. What will our fellow citizens think if honest subjects are faced with such a decree — not to mention the great material losses it would incur. I would like to become a Bavarian citizen again.”

People are shooketh that POTUS hasn’t derived any empathy from his own abuelo’s experience as a deported illegal immigrant.

Credit: @MauiGigner / Twitter

Two generations later, Friedrich Trump’s grandson is the President of the United States and enacting new policies that specifically separates families at the border as a “deterrent” to immigration. When Friedrich’s reasons for immigrating was New York’s harsh climate and wanting to be close to his aging mother, we’d expect his grandson to have compassion for families who are fleeing gang violence, LGBT discrimination, and threats of death to protect their families.

That said, Bavaria rejected Trump, Sr. for dodging the military draft.

Credit: @mssenator / Twitter

Friedrich had fled Bavaria (now-Germany) when he was young as a method to escape the military draft. He obviously failed to report his emigration 20 years prior to receiving the letter because it was shady AF. Germany denied his request to stay in the country since he failed to notify the government of his emigration and for dodging the draft.

Given his recent hate speech to “send back” the four Congresswoman of color, this news has folks reeling in Trump’s own hypocrisy.

Credit: @MarioAVazquez7 / Twitter

Twitter user, Mario Vazquez, tweeted his thoughts, “HYPOCRISY: Melania, from Slovenia, illegally worked under a tourist visa in the 90s and then brought her parents over through “chain migration.” Trump’s mom immigrated from Scotland and his grandfather came from Germany. Should they all “go back” then?”

Fourth-generation Americans are chiming in acknowledging their privilege and degrading Trump’s hypocrisy.

Credit: @nosnibornasus / Twitter

What makes America great is that it did welcome Trump’s family at a time when immigration laws were tightening in the U.S. The President at the time had to veto a law passed in Congress that would require immigrants a literacy test by reading five lines of the Constitution. That POTUS rejected the requirement as un-American.

Friedrich Trump became a U.S. citizen after immigrating as an unaccompanied minor who didn’t speak English.

Credit: @AshaRangappa_ / Twitter

He certainly wouldn’t have passed Trump’s citizenship screening test that prioritizes those with Ph.D.’s and wealth. 

It seems as if our own abuelos are trying Twitter for the first time to “burn” Trump.

Credit: @RoberL01302168 / Twitter

We see you, Mr. Lopez. Solid burn.

We’ll leave you with one final reaction to the surfacing of Friedrich Trump’s letter.

Credit: @nharmertaylor / Twitter

You’re not aging very well, Mr. President. Might we suggest honoring the stories of your own ancestors? This country is built on family. Trump’s own family is built on “chain migration.” Without family, you’re just an old, unhinged, racist white-bordering-orange dude.

She Fled El Salvador With Her Father To Escape The Civil War, Now She Is Running To Be A Judge In Texas

Things That Matter

She Fled El Salvador With Her Father To Escape The Civil War, Now She Is Running To Be A Judge In Texas

Selena-for-Judge / Facebook

If last year’s midterm primaries taught us anything, it was that everyone, regardless of their background or story, has a right to run for office. Furthermore, first-time politicians who want to help the marginalized community are encouraged to run, and we now have proof they can win.

Meet Selena Alvarenga, a gay immigrant of El Salvador, that is seeking to run for District Court Judge in Texas.

Facebook/Selena-for-Judge

Alvarenga’s campaign for judge of Travis County’s 460th District Court is steaming rolling right along as they prepare for an election. While this new seat has never been conquered, the election will be an exciting one to watch. It won’t take place until March 2020, but there’s no better time to jump into campaign mode.

She understands that her background isn’t a typical one, but that’s what makes her a perfect candidate to fight for people’s rights.

Credit: @selenaforjudge / Twitter

Her history as a lawyer spans two decades, and she’s an alum of St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio.

Alvarenga migrated to the U.S. with her father in the 1970s after they fled the Salvadoran Civil War.

Facebook/Selena-for-Judge

“One day, I literally woke up, and my father said everything was packed. He said it was getting too dangerous and we had to leave. We got in the car and we started driving north,” Alvarenga said in an interview with Popsugar.

According to her website, her father worked as a computer programmer at a bank in El Salvador but in the U.S. he could only get work serving fast food. “When he finally did find a job in his field, it was in Alaska. Selena was one of three Latin American immigrants in her class.”

“I didn’t know any English, so I went to [an English as a second language] school,” she said to the publication. That adversity only helped Alvarenga excel in school.

Some of the issues she’s ready to address in her campaign include LGBTQ+ rights and ending cash bail.

Facebook/Selena-for-Judge

Her background includes serving as a current Board Member of the Austin Bar LGBTQ Association. She also seeks to reduce pretrial detention and explore alternatives to cash bail.

Click here to learn more about Selena and her campaign.

READ: These Latinx Queer Organizations Need Your Money More Than You Need Corporate Rainbow Socks

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