Blog of Rights

America is My Home and It's Where I’ll Leave My Legacy

By Maria Marquez Hernandez, Activist at 2:46pm

I recently learned about a group of young people who did something extremely brave. They were invited to lunch with Nebraska's Governor, Dave Heineman, who honored them for winning Nebraska's Soccer State Championship. At the end of the lunch, they politely handed the Governor a letter asking him to reconsider his decision about driver's licenses for DREAMers. The idea to write the letter originated with three of the players, two of them deeply affected by the Governor's decision.

Like the two brave soccer players, I and thousands of other young Nebraskans have been denied a simple privilege given to many: a driver's license. After the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was announced by President Obama last year, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It was an immense feeling of relief and joy. I would be able to do what I have always wanted to do and do so without fear: achieve a career, fully give back to my community and my parents, and lastly -- be independent.

The State of Nebraska, through Governor Heineman's decision to deny me and other DREAMers a license, has made it difficult for me to acquire a job, obtain funding for my education, and even do the simplest things, like give a ride to my sister. It seems trivial, but it means a lot to her. At the same time, Nebraska is my home, and it has provided me with so many opportunities.

I came to Omaha at the young age of five. I attended school in Omaha starting with first grade up until my graduation from Central High School with honors. The simple fact that I graduated from high school is a basic opportunity that was given to me -- an opportunity that would have been costly and difficult in Mexico.

During my school years in Omaha, I was given the chance to expand my comprehension in several subjects like science and math and to express my creativity. I took a drafting class and learned the basic concepts of the architectural world. This made me think about how houses were designed and I realized I wanted to study architecture in college. Dedicated teachers that wanted to see me succeed challenged me and supported me. They knew I would face hardships as an undocumented student that could even make it difficult for me to graduate. I had to work hard. I was also given the beautiful opportunity of attending school at the University of Nebraska at Omaha with the tuition rate of a Nebraskan resident. If I lived in another state, I would have had to pay an international student's tuition, which was beyond my financial budget. Once I got to UNO, I discovered I was more interested in the technical rather than the creative aspects of architecture so I am studying engineering. I hope to get my master's degree at UNO as well.

Like those young soccer players at Governor Heineman's lunch, I realize that it's important to be thankful for the recognitions and opportunities I've been given, but that doesn't mean I won't stand up for myself and others when I see an injustice. That's just as much part of being an American as appreciating what you have and how others have helped you.

Omaha, Nebraska is my home, and I intend to continue living here, creating my legacy, and giving back to my community. I'm proud to be standing up for myself as a plaintiff in the ACLU's lawsuit to obtain driver's licenses for myself and other Nebraska DREAMers.

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