The Daily Tar Heel
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Friday, April 19, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

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The Daily Tar Heel

My name is Rosario Lopez. I am a Tar Heel; I am also undocumented. I am not the only one who is both of those things.

On June 14, two friends and I began a hunger strike that lasted two weeks. We are asking U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., to co-sponsor the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act — legislation that would allow us to earn legal residence in the country we call home.

We have remained silent for too long — afraid to speak out. But silence is no longer an option.

We want people to understand that we are not criminals. We pay our taxes using Individual Tax Identification Numbers provided by the Internal Revenue Service. We cannot receive welfare or Social Security, but we do contribute to the economy.

We are criminalized in the media when we are called “illegal aliens.” This robs us of our humanity.

Why should I become a criminal on my 18th birthday?

I was born in Mexico, but I built my life here. My dreams and goals belong to this country.

Our life in Mexico was hard; the strike we held wasn’t the first time I went hungry. Some days we woke up with both empty stomachs and an empty refrigerator.

Out of desperation for their family, my parents decided to come to the United States. We left everything behind — we had to — in search of a better future. I was 13 years old when we left.

The first years here were very difficult; I had to assimilate to a new culture, a new language and a new way of life. But despite all the difficulties, I graduated from high school with honors.

As I began my college search, I quickly learned how low the chances of going to college are for undocumented students. We must pay out-of-state tuition, we don’t qualify for loans and scholarships are very limited.

I was blessed by the help of an anonymous sponsor who paid for my tuition, my books and my health insurance.

After high school I obtained an associate degree in biotechnology and graduated from UNC with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

I spent countless nights without sleep. I was going to school, working, volunteering and raising my daughter all at the same time.

I am the first and only person in my family to graduate from college, but I am still undocumented.

I cannot work at a lab because I do not have a Social Security number. I could be deported at any moment.

Everything could be taken away from me, including the chance to be near my daughter, who is an American citizen.

I am tired of living in fear. I cannot earn legal residence under present law.

There are thousands of students that are in the same situation I am: hard-working high school and college graduates that are eager to give back to their communities.

Please don’t let our dreams die: tell Hagan to support the DREAM Act.

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