Home is defined differently for everyone. It can be where family is, a specific place or memory, or a dream for the future. After growing up in the United States, 17-year-old Karina considers Colorado Springs to be her home.
“I love it here,” she says, “I have so many opportunities.”
Karina cannot imagine returning to Mexico, where she and her younger sister, Dafne, came from six years ago. At first, the young girls did not understand why their mother would risk their lives and leave their grandmother behind to live in a country where they did not even speak the language. However, Karina is now extremely grateful for the opportunity her mother gave her and Dafne. She knows now that her mother left Mexico to give her daughters a chance to live fulfilling lives with good jobs in a safe home.
In 2011, five years after leaving, Karina’s grandmother became fatally ill. Shortly after the death, Karina’s mother returned to Mexico. Although she knew she might never have the chance to return to the U.S., Karina’s mother was confident in her daughters’ security and the bright futures that they would have in the United States. They would be able to live safely with their undocumented stepfather, who works in construction. The girls’ stepfather works long hours to provide for Karina and Dafne so that they can focus on school.
Karina found out about Catholic Charities Family Immigration Services (FIS) while attending church at St. Dominic. She learned that she qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA defers removal action against undocumented children for a certain period of time. Although it does not provide lawful status or a pathway to citizenship, with DACA approval, Karina can stay in the United States and apply for jobs that would otherwise be illegal for her to work. Karina diligently set appointments with her FIS counselor, Ivonne, to help her with the necessary paperwork for DACA. She appreciates the kindness and honesty that FIS has treated her with. “They are patient with me,” she says.
As a high school student, Karina has gone above and beyond by enrolling in the Concurrent Enrollment (CE) program. Through CE, she can earn college credit through courses at Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC) while finishing her high school diploma. Karina is currently taking courses at PPCC to become a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA). In high school, Karina finds it hard to make friends that can relate to her immigration situation. It is challenging for her to talk to others about her mother in Mexico or her struggles to find work as a non-citizen. She also feels that people sometimes look down on her or act rudely towards her because she has an accent, and they can tell she is not from the U.S. “I’ve been a part of the community for many years,” Karina says. Karina appreciates that at FIS, she not only receives honest help for her DACA application but she is also welcomed by the staff that does not judge her or her family.
Currently, Karina is still waiting for her DACA application to go through. She will finish her CNA classes soon but cannot apply for jobs without DACA approval. “I’m tied down. I can’t get my driver’s license or a job,” she says. In the meantime, Karina will continue to take courses at PPCC next semester. She would like to finish an Associate’s degree to become an interpreter using her bilingual skills. Without Catholic Charities help in applying for DACA, Karina believes she would not be able to attend school, “I would probably end up working in a restaurant for the rest of my life.”
For young adults like Karina, the only life they have known is living in the United States. They may have been born in another country, but there is no life waiting for them there. “I’m not trying to cause any harm in the United States,” Karina says, “I’m just trying to do better for myself and for my family.”
Thanks to Catholic Charities Family Immigration Services, Karina has a chance to make a life in the place that she calls home.