2012-06-28 / Community

Stuck in limbo

National immigration debate hits home for recent college grad
By Stephanie Guzman
Special to the Acorn


OPPORTUNITY—Thousand Oaks resident Anahi Quiroz graduated from Cal State Channel Islands in 2011. She is one of an estimated 1.4 million undocumented U.S. residents who may benefit from President Obama’s executive order to temporarily stop the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and don’t have a criminal history. 
WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers OPPORTUNITY—Thousand Oaks resident Anahi Quiroz graduated from Cal State Channel Islands in 2011. She is one of an estimated 1.4 million undocumented U.S. residents who may benefit from President Obama’s executive order to temporarily stop the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and don’t have a criminal history. WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers The lack of a 3-by-2-inch card is holding Anahi Quiroz back.

The 2011 graduate of California State University Channel Islands thinks about the benefits of having a driver’s license every day while working as a cashier at a local pizza joint, where she also pitches in to wash dishes and wipe down tables.

Not having the ID card, she said, is a reminder of her status as an undocumented U.S. resident. It’s what’s keeping the ambitious 26-year-old from accepting offers of higher-paying jobs.

“My legal status is something that’s always in my face,” said Quiroz, a Thousand Oaks resident who came to the U.S. from Mexico for the first time when she was 6. “It’s not something I want to hide. (My undocumented status) makes me different and is part of my struggle.”

Quiroz is one of an estimated 1.4 million undocumented U.S. residents that may benefit from President Obama’s executive order to temporarily stop the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and don’t have a criminal history.

Obama said during a June 15 press conference that the twoyear order will give “a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”

“It’s excellent news,” Quiroz said.

Under the president’s order, Quiroz can apply for the paperwork she needs to land a better job.

Enforcing the new rules

The order doesn’t come without stipulations.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which outlined the new policies in a recently released three-page memorandum, undocumented immigrants can apply for work permits and driver’s licenses if they are under 30 years old, came to the U.S. before they were 16 and have been in the country for at least five years.

The executive order also protects undocumented military veterans.

The administration’s decision will affect many families in the Ventura County area, said Arcenio Lopez, associate director of an Oxnardbased immigrant rights organization.

“The parents will be excited and say, ‘We brought you over here and we want a better life for you, and now you have this opportunity,’” Lopez said.

Opponents of the order argue that it will be difficult for law enforcement to identify immigrants who qualify because there is no documentation of when they arrived in the U.S.

David Wales, an agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, said agents will enforce the executive order on a case-by-case basis.

“There are always going to be particular cases which lead to interpretations, and there are so many different scenarios that one document couldn’t capture them all,” Wales said.

One-room garage

Quiroz initially crossed the border in 1992 with her younger brother, Carlos, and her mom, who had already been living in the U.S.

Quiroz stayed in the States for three years but moved back to Mexico with her grandmother in 1995 when her mother contracted valley fever after the Northridge earthquake in 1994.

Quiroz returned to America in 2003 when she was 17 and enrolled in Thousand Oaks High School as a freshman.

She lived for five years with her mom and two brothers in a one-room garage in T.O. She worked 45 to 55 hours a week at McDonald’s and graduated from high school at age 20.

When her brother was deported and her mother’s medical condition deteriorated, Quiroz, then a college student, became the sole breadwinner in the family. To make ends meet, she held down two jobs while attending college full time.

“I had to push myself because I had my responsibilities and I really wanted to go to school,” she said.

Quiroz graduated from college in five years, set down roots in Ventura County and volunteered for social justice causes such as the county’s annual homeless count.

A new future

The executive order will allow Quiroz to breathe easier the next two years. She plans to attend California Lutheran University in the fall to obtain a master’s degree in public policy and administration. She then wants to earn a doctorate and become a lawyer.

Quiroz said she plans to stay in the U.S. and continue her education for as long as she can.

Quiroz will lead a community forum about migrant children and the American dream at 7:30 p.m. Fri., July 6 at the Conejo Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 3327 Old Conejo Road, Newbury Park.

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