Jazmin Ponce Escoto
I’m a sophomore at Colorado State University studying landscape design and contracting. My classmates have started looking for summer jobs and are already in high demand. Yet I’m not allowed to apply and have been shut out of the process.
It doesn’t matter that at last fall’s National Association of Landscape Professional’s annual convention, where I served as student ambassador, seven people gave me their business cards and told me they would be happy to consider me for an internship.
When I got home, I handed them to my professor and suggested he give them to other students. “I can’t take these jobs because of my status,” I told him.
My “status” refers to the fact that I am considered undocumented and can’t legally work in the United States. This is true even though I’ve lived in Colorado since coming here from Mexico at age 4 and grew up in the Westminster public school system. My classmates are often surprised to learn about my situation. It seems strange to them that I wouldn’t be able to re-enter the country if I ever traveled abroad. But right now, I’m most concerned about the fact that after I graduate, I might not be able to get a job.
For the past decade, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, including 22,000 Coloradans, gained the right to work through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA — program. But since 2017, when DACA’s legality was questioned by the courts, many other young adult immigrants like me have been unable to participate in the program. I’m one of them. I applied for DACA two years ago, but when I log on to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to check on my case, the screen tells me it’s not yet processed.
For the sake of my future — and for so many others like me — I welcome the introduction of a new Dream Act by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would offer a pathway to residency and citizenship for 2 million immigrants who came here as kids. It would finally allow us to get on with our lives.
Congress has a chance to offer my generation security and safety and the chance for me to be able to participate in American life as a community member, business owner, homeowner and voter.
In fact, polls consistently show that the majority of Coloradans support such efforts. But what the polls don’t reflect is the quiet suffering of thousands of anxious Coloradans like me who can’t do things many people take for granted. I see the difference in my own family: My 14-year-old younger brother was born here and is a U.S. citizen. He’ll be able to get a part-time job to earn spending money and travel to foreign countries that I could only dream of. He’ll be able to get an internship to gain practical experience in his field. He also won’t have to worry about breaking minor laws. My worst fear is landing in detention for something as simple as jaywalking. I can’t imagine what that would do to my parents.
But I also can’t really imagine a future in which I graduate with this amazing degree and am unable to do the work I’ve been trained to do. My professors say that Colorado’s longtime landscaper shortage means there are plenty of opportunities for new graduates. Plus, I like the fact that I’m breaking barriers as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Someday, I even want to start my own business.
Congress has a chance to offer my generation security and safety and the chance for me to be able to participate in American life as a community member, business owner, homeowner and voter. Not just after graduation — but permanently.
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