Karina Velasco was 14 years old and
had just finished ninth grade in her home
village near Mexico City. Carrying only a
small book bag packed with family photos, a few favorite poems and a change of
clothes, she climbed a ladder, jumped over a
wall and landed in the United States.
“When I crossed the border and started
walking through the bushes, the pants that
I was wearing that day, they got ripped,” she
says. “I still keep the book bag, I still keep
Much has changed since that day for Kar-
ina, who lives with her family in Takoma
Park. Now 24, she works for a nonprofit
agency that ministers to young immigrants
and is studying for a degree in social work.
She pays her mother rent, finances her own
education and sends money to her grand-
mother in Mexico.
Karina Velasco is a hard-working, taxpaying, law-abiding young woman. But the
torn pants and small bag are reminders that
one fact has not changed: She is still an illegal immigrant.
Last year she qualified under a federal
program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that protects young newcomers from deportation and grants them permission to work. But the program is based
on an executive order, signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, that could be
revoked by the next president.
Until Congress passes a law providing
immigrants like her with a permanent pathway to citizenship, she must cope with constant uncertainty.
“I feel like I’m in limbo,” she says. “Even
though I don’t have to worry about my
immigration status right now, when people ask me, have you gone back to visit your
grandmother in Mexico, I can’t.
“When I left Mexico,” Karina continues,
“she said to me, ‘I wish I could be a little
bird to fly over there and be with you.’ I got
very emotional when she said that because
I wish I could be with her. That’s something
that I have to live with every day.”
That’s something every immigrant has to
live with. No matter how well they adjust to
Living in Limbo
Many children who come to this country
illegally face uncertainty. One young woman
is using her own experiences to help
Takoma Park’s Karina Velasco still faces the threat of
deportation, even though she has lived in the U.S. for
10 years, attends college and has a steady job.