As I sat in a small television program studio and looked at Grecia Rivas, an undocumented student at Western New Mexico University in the middle of an interview for the local PBS station, I paused to think about how inspiring her story could be to others who have traveled her journey.
I’m not one of them. I was born in Douglas, Arizona in 1982. Seeing border patrols while growing up was routine. Speaking two languages was a way of life. Traveling “across the line” to check in with the family doctor was an annual occasion.
Yet, today I learned there is so much I don’t know or understand about undocumented immigrants. To the average observer, Grecia is a smart and beautiful 20-something. Her accent is barely noticeable and she is well spoken. Grecia was born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and grew up in Tucson, Arizona after arriving in the United States at the age of three.
She is an undocumented immigrant but that doesn’t matter. She’s in America, graduated from an American high school and is attending an American university. She inspires me.
She inspires me because in spite of an American policy that basically says “send her back”, she has stood up for what she feels is right. She didn’t choose to be in America, yet those were the cards she was dealt. She didn’t choose to be separated from more than half of her family for most of her life, yet God had a plan for her. Despite her struggles, Grecia made tough choices. She chose to advocate for the youth in America that were educated here and want to stay to make a living, contribute to society and become Americans.
“I always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they belong,” — George Washington
To me, Grecia is an American and I can’t wait to see her be the first in her family to earn a college degree. That is the American Dream.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on August 29, 2015.