An Undocumented Teenager in Chester County Shares Her Immigration Story

A local student, who was born in Mexico, offers a candid take on her tenuous status and life in the United States.



Illustration by Jon Krause.

When she was just 5 months old, M. Perez came to the United States with her family, who were fleeing Mexico. “There were three things that made my parents decide to relocate: the poverty, the insecurity and the corrupted government,” she says.

Though she’s lived in Pennsylvania for most of her 15 years, Perez doesn’t qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act that went into effect in 2012. So she goes through each day knowing that her status—and that of her parents—is tenuous. “I fear that someday our current administration might successfully deport my people and me back to Mexico,” says Perez. “I would lose so many opportunities, and I would get separated from my beloved younger siblings [who have U.S. citizenship].”

Her family’s struggle isn’t dissimilar to that of the millions of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. A recent Pew Research Center study found that their numbers peaked in 2007 and have been steadily declining ever since. Like the Perez family, many were seeking a better life. “I will forever owe this country and be entirely grateful for the opportunities it gave me,” says Perez. “The U.S. is where I grew up for most of my life. It gave me things that Mexico would’ve never been able to.”

A student living in Chester County, M. Perez—a moniker she’s chosen to protect her identity—has taken to writing to express her myriad feelings about U.S. policies and the way some Americans view unauthorized immigrants. “Poetry allows you to express [yourself] freely, and depending on how much passion and feelings you put into it, it sounds majestic when read aloud,” she says.

Perez hopes that DACA will one day accept new applicants, so she might be in a position to earn a college degree and have a career in the U.S. She also plans to continue writing and maybe one day publish a book—if she doesn’t pursue a career in criminology or psychology. “Knowing my status, deep inside I know I can’t ever reach that far,” she says.

Just maybe, one day she can.

Click below to read M. Perez's "Different" and "Monarch Butterfly."

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