[testimonial]I missed out on a lot of things because I didn’t have a Social Security number. It’s like you can’t go forward.[/testimonial]

Kiran Jahangir was 8 when she, her brother and mother moved to the U.S. from Pakistan, to be reunited with her father after five years apart.

She vividly remembers the night she landed at the Chicago International airport. As the family wandered around the airport, unable to communicate with anyone, she remembers gripping her mother’s hand so tightly her fingers turned white.

Her family is part of the 40 percent of immigrants who didn’t cross a border illegally but overstayed their visas. The family settled in the Dallas suburb of Oak Cliff, yet the feeling of not quite belonging remained with Kiran.

While she attended school and had a seemingly “normal” childhood, there were stark reminders that her situation was different than other kids her age.

“We always had to lie about why we couldn’t do what we couldn’t do,” she says.

Legally, she couldn’t do things such as drive a car or get a job. Being undocumented meant living in the shadows.

“I felt like I couldn’t fully live my life,” she says.

After 16 years in the U.S., going back to Pakistan was not an option for Kiran or her family. Pakistan was as foreign as the United States once was.

“We could go back, but we would be aliens there too.”

For Kiran, the United States means more than a place to live. She credits American doctors with diagnosing her with cancer and lupus when it was still early enough to be treated. She feels she owes finding her passion in life to her American education.

She is currently pursuing her master’s in childhood development at Texas Women’s University.

Kiran was approved for Deferred Action in December 2012. She made a decision to relive what she missed during her childhood and adolescent years.

In the months since becoming “DACAmented,” 24-year-old Kiran is ready to explore and learn new things. She is ready to live her life.


[testimonial]“I didn’t like that I was technically breaking the law.”[/testimonial]

He was five when he crossed the Rio Grande into Texas on the shoulders of his uncle.

His legs were too short to keep up with his uncle and mother. He remembers being grabbed by the hand and whisked through the air, his little feet barely touching the ground. On the other side, Juan and his family had to run to reach a safe house before the Border Patrol agents could spot them.

The safe house was in Eagle Pass, Texas, far from his birthplace in Patzcuaro, Michoacán. This was the beginning of Juan’s journey to reunite his family with his father in Dallas.

Juan Velazquez, a computer engineering student at the University of North Texas, is one of the estimated 1 million undocumented students in the United States. When he graduates, Juan will be the first in the family to have a college degree.

He and his family spent nearly two decades moving from town to town until they settled in Plano, Texas. Growing up, Juan remembers living in fear. His parents would warn him to stay away from public places and not to share his secret with anyone.

Now 19, Juan has lived in Texas for 15 years. Like many undocumented students who arrive as children, Juan had no choice but to make a home in the United States. His parents wanted a better life for him. A life he wouldn’t be able to have in Mexico.

Like many teenage boys, Juan had a passion for cars. He was fascinated by how they worked, how they looked, how they sounded. But driving one was a far away dream. Without a legal immigration status, Juan could not get a driver’s license. He drove anyway.

Juan’s fear of being caught became real every time he passed through surprise checkpoints set to catch drivers without licenses. Behind the wheel, every turn he took around the neighborhood made his palms sweat. His eyes would dart, scanning for black police cruisers.

“I didn’t like that I was technically breaking the law,” he says.

In January 2013 Juan was accepted for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA, an immigration policy announced by President Obama, provides qualified undocumented youth in the U.S. with a temporary work permit, a Social Security number, and in some states, a driver’s license. Juan received his license a few weeks later.

Juan’s drive continues. A license with his name is just the first step towards a life out of the shadows.

The Dreamer

[testimonial]I let everything out. I screamed so hard that I lost my voice.[/testimonial]

Marco Malagón is a dreamer.

Since he crossed the border from Mexico on a moonlit night in 1999, Marco has climbed higher and higher. He’s worked his way up from fast food cook to industrial quality control to apprenticing for design engineers. He graduated from McKinney High School. He earned an Associates Degree at Collin County Community College. He took classes at the University of Texas at Dallas.

He’s always dreamed of being a doctor. But without a work permit or a Social Security number, Marco wouldn’t be able to use a medical degree to get a job. He’s decided to change the system that stands in the way of his dreams.

Now 31, Marco’s sights are set on moving the monumental machinery required to pass immigration reform. If passed, an estimated 11.5 million people in the U.S. could step into the light with legalized work and benefits. Marco serves as president of the North Texas Dream Team, an activist organization formed to push for immigrant rights.

In the past year, most of his team received work papers thanks to Obama’s decision to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in July 2012. The Deferred Action program gives many student immigrants without papers a way to get a work permit and a Social Security number.

Deferred Action is an opportunity for undocumented youth, but Marco and the Dream Team continue to push for change.

Deferred Action is not a solution for all undocumented immigrants.