Here’s What it Looks Like to Grow Up Undocumented in America

Jessica Colotl came to the United States from Mexico with her family when she was 11 and grew up undocumented in the U.S. She was arrested in 2010 for driving without a license on her college campus near Atlanta and threatened with deportation. But when the national media reported her story, she was freed from the immigration detention facility. Instantly, Jessica became the face for the movement for status for undocumented young people.

In June 2012, President Obama created a new program,
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, to help young undocumented people like Jessica live and work in the U.S. She graduated from college and began work as a paralegal in an immigration law firm. Nothing about Jessica’s situation has changed, but the Trump administration just revoked her DACA. We are fighting for Jessica and the 750,000 young people living with DACA.

Jessica Colotl as a child with family at a birthday party

This is a picture of me at a family birthday party not long after we got to Atlanta. I’m the second one from right, standing up. I came to Atlanta when I was 11, and at first, I didn’t understand there was something different about my family’s status. I just noticed that my dad, who had been a truck driver in Mexico, was nervous about driving and getting stopped. Later, my parents told me it was because he didn’t have a Social Security number.

Jessica with a friend in middle school

Here’s a picture of me in the school yard with one of my friends in middle school. I felt like every other kid in school. I had no understanding whatsoever of what it meant to be without status.

Jessica at a bowling alley

This picture is right after I graduated from high school, at a bowling alley with a group of close friends. I was really bad at bowling, so I just sat and watched. I had figured out I was undocumented during the process of applying to college. Being undocumented was one of those things you don’t really share, even with your friends, unless you know for sure they are, too. I told one of my closest friends when I found out she was also undocumented. She was really smart, and she wanted so badly to go to college, but she couldn’t afford to pay for it without financial aid. I was the only one of this close group of friends to go to college.

Jessica Colotl and her mom

This is me and my mother at a surprise party she threw for me when I turned 20. My mom organized the whole thing: She invited our relatives, made a cake, decorated the place. When I walked in the door, they all jumped out and yelled, “Sorpresa!” I started laughing. My mom is an incredible, hard-working woman — she’s my role model. She’s the type of person who says, “If you’re going to do something, do it with passion, put your heart in whatever it is that you’re doing.”

Jessica being interviewed on CNN

After I was arrested for driving without a license in 2010, I was held in an immigration detention facility in Alabama. One day I was watching TV there when I saw my face on CNN. A few days later, after more than a month in detention, I was released. A movement was growing and pressing for a solution for people like me, who came to the U.S. as kids and grew up with no legal status. When President Obama created DACA in 2012, I told reporters and the world why this program is so important.

Jessica and family at her college graduation

When I graduated from college, my family, including my aunt and uncle and cousins, came to the ceremony to watch me get my diploma. It was the happiest day of my life. I was the first person in my entire family to finish high school and go to college. My parents, who worked cleaning offices, always told me that education would bring me something better.

Jessica at a rally

Until recently, I was working as a paralegal in an immigration law firm and saving money for law school. But after my DACA was revoked, everything changed. I had to stop driving and working. I knew I was at risk for deportation, and I felt scared. But this time, I also knew how to fight, because I’ve seen how powerful our voices can be. Groups organized a rally on my behalf in Atlanta in May, and my sorority sisters attended to show their support. We are committed to fighting for all the 750,000 people with DACA whose status is fragile but whose voices are strong.

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Dejen de estar chillando,aquí tenemos que vivir con las leyes y si no les gusta este país ya pueden largarse y traten de cambiar el sistema político de México y si no se van es porque en México no tenían ni que comer por eso cuando se habla de que los pueden deportar se ponen a chillar porque aquí están tragando gratis y aprovechandose de la bondad de este gran país y ustedes para lo único que sirven es para pedir estampillas de comida,renta gratis y chillar como niños cuando se habla de deportación porque en México no la van a tener nada fácil y halla no van a estar gritando contra Peña nieto como lo hacen contra las autoridades de este país y sus justas leyes y eso sólo demuestra que no sabemos respetar al país que nos a recibido con los brazos habiertos aunque sabemos que venimos rompiendo sus leyes desde el inicio al entrar como indocumentados.vete a tu tierra y trata de cambiar tu país.


Frijolers, frijolers, frijolers, comer frijoles.

Beaners, Beaners, Beaners, eat beans.


Nice that you know how to use google translate. This is not correct Spanish whitey.


I have a bottle of champagne for the day that DACA is finally cancelled. It is an illegal amnesty that the constitution does not allow since only Congress has the power to determine immigration laws. Time to end that program and use the information provided to arrest, detain and deport every recipient.


You and your champagne should be deported. Birth place does not give universal rights over that land. As for constitutionality, it allows for all people within the borders of the United States to be treated the same under law. Foreign citizen, foreign born or not.

DACA is a great American program that should be expanded. Stop fearing the Hispanic. Why are you so bitter and ignorant, did an immigrant take your job? Or are you just racist, stupid and try to use "law" to justify your hatered? I think the later. You live in constant fear, it must be really difficult to be you. To live in constant fear and pain. Go talk to your Jesus or get some mental health. You need it!


I also have a bottle, but I'm saving it for when Hispanics/Latinos finally realize they are the majority in parts of the country and start acting accordingly. They will vote your white racist asses out, and return civilized society to the regions they "control". Sorry white man, you days are numbered and you will be deported back to Europe where you belong. True, Latinos are "Spanish", but they were here first. Of course the Native man was ultimately here first but the whitemans genocide and wars destroyed their paradise.

Did your family cross the land bridge, or did they come on a boat with the rest!? Go back to England!


"it allows for all people within the borders of the United States to be treated the same under law." I think the "law" is that they shouldn't be here. You just gave justification to his comment.


Anonymous - The sick, ignorant replies to your post is exactly why we American's flocked to the polls in droves in Nov. 2016 and put Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office. Now, I see a 'pathway' to deportation for them all.
These people were used as pawns by a conniving obama to advance his agenda, and they are toooo blind to see it!

You go girl

You go girl! Love seeing people coming to this country and making all they can with the opportunity! Congratulations on your education and positive contribution to society! I and others have you back. Don't let DACA define you. You ARE as American as me or anyone else in this country.

Haters will hate because they fear everything not like them. They'll say things like "you came illegally" or "you should go back to your birth country". Screw that! You deserve to be here more than most people that were born here. You do more for society and good than the haters who are crazy right wingers!

Keep your chin up and if they strike it, turn the other cheek, we got your back and WILL hold those accountable for destroying good people and their lives.


Oh boo hoo! You are here illegally and we finally have a president who is going to enforce immigration law. The illegal alien lobby uses emotional arguments to push for amnesty because they don't have any other arguments to support their case.
The reason we have immigration laws is to protect the resources of the nation for the citizens and legal residents of the country. Fundamentally, illegal immigration is a corruption problem that must be dealt with decisively or we as a country have no control of who or how many come into our country. I favor cracking down on corrupt employers, but the illegal aliens themselves have to go home too. Illegal immigration is NOT a civil liberty!


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