The Obama Administration announced it will stop deporting young undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children, if they meet certain requirements. Ileana Salinas, DREAM Act activist and business owner talks about the policy, the politics, and what it means for undocumented youth in Arizona.
Richard Ruelas: Last week, President Obama announced plans to shift the administration's immigration policy to allow certain undocumented young people to stay in the U.S. and no longer be subject to deportation. The executive order is considered a small victory for undocumented immigrants who came into the country when they were children. And many say the reform now helps them stop living in fear. With me to talk about this perspective is Ileana Salinas, a DREAM Act activist. Ileana is also a business owner. thanks for joining us.
Ileana Salinas: Thank you.
Richard Ruelas: So we've heard all the lawyers and political people talk about it. What did this mean to you? What did this mean to the community?
Ileana Salinas: In my case, I was detained in 2009 and I fought my case for three years.
Richard Ruelas: You were detained for what reason?
Ileana Salinas: It was a police stop, but I was not driving. I was just in the passenger's seat.
Richard Ruelas: So one of the typical traffic citation type things? What was the offense?
Ileana Salinas: Nothing, I didn't do anything. I was riding in a car, and they started -- they said I'm going to get all the information from everybody, I want to know where you're from. When I showed my school I.D. and I told them my name, my date of birth, I don't know why they thought that I wasn't from here. The color of my skin. So I fought my case for three years but then last year, I demonstrated good moral character and applied for the discretion so that my case would be terminated and it was terminated. I went back to the same place. Now, I'm undocumented, I have a degree in psychology from ASU and I haven't been able to use it. So I decided to open my business in translation services.
Richard Ruelas: How old are you now?
Ileana Salinas: 22.
Richard Ruelas: How old were you?
Ileana Salinas: 19.
Richard Ruelas: What age were you when you came to this country?
Ileana Salinas: I remember parts of it. My whole family is here.
Richard Ruelas: So you came here, very young? Like kindergarten-ish?
Ileana Salinas: It was like teenager. Early teens.
Richard Ruelas: You learned English here in high school here in Arizona?
Ileana Salinas: Yes, I learned English around one or two years, I was fluent but I came here knowing, can I go to the bathroom, that was everything I knew.
Richard Ruelas: Your high school would probably want credit for that because it's pretty amazing that you're able to learn English so quickly. What high school did you go to?
Ileana Salinas: I went to West Phoenix, I went to the high school there. And it was -- at first, they couldn't believe that I was in the ESL program but I was at the same level as my other classmates. After one year, I was already in the same level. I was lucky to be able to have enough credits to go to college.
Richard Ruelas: ASU degree. When did you realize your status would be a barrier to you?
Ileana Salinas: In the senior year in high school. I went to my counselor and I was like exploring options, I wanted to know what was the difference between the community college and the university. Pretty much I was told that in my case, I was better to think about community college because the university would be too expensive for me but I started researching more and I was able to apply for about 30 scholarships and I was able to get two full rides to ASU.
Richard Ruelas: Those were privately funded?
Ileana Salinas: All private.
Richard Ruelas: What was the push to go to ASU and not community college?
Ileana Salinas: Because I had all the credits and I wanted to be able to start a four-year degree. My goal was to have an undergraduate degree.
Richard Ruelas: You probably have met and are friends with a lot of people who are what we call the DREAMers here.
Ileana Salinas: Yes.
Richard Ruelas: What did Friday's decision by the Obama administration mean to them and yourself? This means you might be able to apply for a work permit.
Ileana Salinas: It means a lot to us. I was one of the cofounders of the Arizona DREAMer coalition and it was really difficult. The beginning. But now, we are getting more support from people. For me, what this decision means is hope that I will be able to use my degree and show that I can contribute even more to the country because I have been contributing through my business and I just through mentoring other students, community service hours, a lot of things.
Richard Ruelas: Something had to keep you going to push on a degree even knowing that at the end of it, there might not be a way to get it. What pushed you to get it?
Ileana Salinas: I think one was the responsibility that I've had since the beginning knowing that my parents have made a very big sacrifice to move to unknown places, to look for a better life. That's what's always been in the back of my mind. I need to make my parents proud. I need to be a role model for my cousins and for my siblings. So that's what kept me going.
Richard Ruelas: Now, you have cousins or siblings who might be able to take advantage of this program. Before you cry, I'll thank you for joining us. Thank you for joining us tonight on "Horizonte".
Richard Ruelas: That's our show for this Thursday night. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm Richard Ruelas in for José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.
Ileana Salinas:DREAM Act activist, business owner;