Gabriela Ledezma’s Turn at the American Dream

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.'”

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This T-Shirt Has Caused Controversy For Its Anti-Immigrant Imagery And Now The Store Has Been Forced To Apologize

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This T-Shirt Has Caused Controversy For Its Anti-Immigrant Imagery And Now The Store Has Been Forced To Apologize

A shirt with the slogan “got papers?” featuring the silhouette of a family fleeing caused outrage in Port Arthur, Texas. The T-shirt leaves nothing to the imagination and would only be worn by someone who delights in interrogating the immigration status of others. 

The Ebony Mart on Gulfway Drive, where the t-shirt is sold, is a hot spot for Latinx families in Port Arthur. 

“A lot of friends, family, everybody know this store. I knew this store since I was a baby,” Kathy Delarosa told KFDM News she visits the store two or three times a week. 

The 21-year-old was a loyal customer so when she visited Ebony Mart and saw the t-shirt in person, she was naturally upset. 

“I don’t think it’s really nice to have for the store because a lot of Hispanics will get offended. I don’t think they should sell it at all,” she said.

The Port Arthur Latinx community is not happy with Ebony Mart. 

Needless to say, seeing the t-shirt in their community did not make Latinx residents feel at home or welcome. The Port Arthur members felt like it was a slap in the face to immigrants. 

The owner, whose identity has not been revealed, claimed that she did not know the t-shirt was a part of a store order, according to KFDM. When KFDM spoke with the owner over the phone she said she no longer sold the shirts, instructed her manager to remove all of them from the racks, and extended an apology to the immigrant community. 

A candidate for Port Arthur City Council, Armando Ruiz, was not happy with the t-shirt either. 

“That’s outrageous,” said Ruiz. “That’s crazy. How a store would put out that type of product out there to sell. This is where I used to buy my uniforms, back when I went to school seven years ago. So this store is frequented a lot. It’s in a predominantly Hispanic area. A lot of Hispanics do come to this store.”

Political and offensive t-shirts appear to be a trend in the Trump era. 

T-shirts seemingly geared toward Trump supporters have been making the rounds, many of them have been singled out as offensive. Extrapolate what you will with regards to what that says about fans of the president. Just this week Bloomingdales was forced to remove a t-shirt that said one of Trump’s favorite phrases “Fake News.” 

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention, and we apologize for any offense we may have caused. We take this feedback very seriously and are working quickly to remove this t-shirt. Again, thank you for taking the time to alert us,” the brand said in a statement. 

However, Pamela Wood s Baltimore journalist was not satisfied with the response saying, “Apologizing ‘for any offense we may have caused’ is not a sincere apology. This is not about journalists’ hurt feelings. This is about damage done to our democracy when your brand joins in perpetuating and celebrating the idea of “fake news.” Please try again.”

Port Arthur Residents feel business owners should be mindful of who they are selling to.

Texas is one of the most diverse states with Houston being the most diverse city in the country. Port Arthur is multicultural as well with Blacks making up 41 percent of the population, Whites 37 percent, and Latinx-identifying folks making up 29.6 percent of the population according to 2010 Census data. 

“When I saw the shirt, it is very offensive,” said Henry Jones III. “You have different ethnic groups in this area. In Southeast Texas, you have to be very careful what type of product you put out because you don’t want to offend people especially with something of that sort.”

Ruiz echoed Jones’ sentiment saying business owners need to be mindful of the communities they are representing. 

“They should look at the product before they put it out there to sell for the community,” said Ruiz. “They do need to look around their surroundings and see what type of people live in their community and check out what type of product they can have and can’t have.”

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A Honduran Immigrant Construction Worker In New Orleans Warned About The Hard Rock Hotel And Is Now In ICE Custody

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A Honduran Immigrant Construction Worker In New Orleans Warned About The Hard Rock Hotel And Is Now In ICE Custody

Statistics show the people in the most vulnerable professions are jobs held by the Latino community. Window washers and construction workers put their life on the line every single day when they’re up on those skyscrapers or building them. Maids and hotel workers face assault all the time. The majority of the time, these workers don’t have benefits or insurance, so if they get fired or even worse, die on the job, their family gets nothing. We also know these workers face the risk of being deported when things go wrong on the job site. 

On Oct. 12, a Hard Rock Hotel construction site in New Orleans collapsed, and it was all captured on video.

Credit: @NBC6News / Twitter

The video footage of the building’s downfall went viral on Twitter. It looked incredible scary as it was located in the heart of New Orleans. The construction site was apparently an $85 million development project by King Company and was 18-floors high. When it came crashing down, it was evident that people were hurt, and even worse, dead. 

Three people died, and dozens more were injured as a result of the crash. One of those injured was a 38-year-old construction worker, Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma.

Credit: @criticalreading / Twitter

Palma happened to be on the 13th floor when the building came down. After the crash, his family told the Washington Post that Palma experienced headaches, back pain, trauma from the collapse, which resulted in insomnia. 

Just two days after the crash, Palma was facing deportation. What makes this story so suspicious is that Palma had reported issues with the construction site before its crash.

Palma, who is an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, reported the problems with the construction site to his supervisors and coworkers at least five times, according to the Post, but they never listened to his concerns. 

The Post also reports that Palma’s supervisors became aware that several people knew about his concerns. “After the collapse, some of those workers approached him, telling him that he was right, according to the complaint. The group was within earshot of several supervisors, the complaint says.”

A day before the crash, a video (above) showed a construction worker filming the construction site and discussing the shoddy structure. The man in the video says in Spanish that there were not enough support beams to hold the concrete above it. It’s unclear if the man speaking in the video is Palma. 

Palma’s lawyer said that his client is clearly being targeted because he had expressed concerns about the construction site. 

Credit: @markmobilty / Twitter

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Homero López Jr., Palma’s lawyer, told the Post. “It definitely looks like they’re targeting him.”

His lawyer adds that his detainment, which occurred when Palma was out fishing, happened very abruptly, just two days after the crash. He said his client had been working on his immigration cases for years. 

His legal team is requesting the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to stop Palma from being deported.

Credit: @univisionnews / Instagram

“I hope that they intervene in this case given the stakes, not only for Joel but also for all workers and for the integrity of this investigation,” Mary Yanik, another lawyer on Palma’s case, told New Orleans Public Radio. Yanik said that the OSHA has previously helped another undocumented worker in the past, so she hopes they will do the same with Palma. 

“He could see that this was not right,” Yanik said. “His supervisor’s response to him raising those safety issues was ‘If you don’t want to do the work, we’ll find someone else to do it.'”

ICE claims that there’s nothing suspicious about Palma’s detainment because there had been an order of deportation already on file.

Credit: @prof_hlas / Twitter

“Any claims that this has anything to do with his involvement with the Hard Rock situation is not correct. Just look at the dates,” Bryan Cox, a spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told New Orleans Public Radio. He added that Palma was ordered to be deported nine days before the building crashed. 

According to The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (Workers’ Center), Palma’s case is getting a good amount of support from numerous organizations and groups from around the country. Click here for more information on how you can help Palma and his family. 

READ: In Texas, Undocumented Construction Workers Are The New Slaves

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