By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A South Philadelphia college student is one of the first in our area to get a two-year reprieve under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Order, which he issued in August. And the approval means the young woman gets a chance to create a life in America outside of the shadows.
“I crossed the border by walking,” says Karla Rojas, 18. “I was 7.”
Rojas is the founder of Fuerza (means “Power” in English), a youth group within Juntos. She says she has lived undocumented in America for 11 years and, even though she was just a little girl when her parents brought her to this country, she still has nightmares about the dangerous trek across the border from Mexico.
“Me and this other girl, because we were so young and because my mom was pregnant at that time, they told us, ‘stay on one side’ while everyone else had to take off their clothes and give up all their belongings,” says Rojas. “They were all naked. But there was this one guy who did not want to give his belongings and because he did not want to give it, they beat him to death right in front of our eyes.”
Rojas says she had dreams about getting a job, driving a car and going away to college until she learned she was not a legal citizen. She says that realization caused her to become deeply depressed.
“Everybody was like, ‘you’re going to end up pregnant just like everybody else,'” she says. “‘You’re just going to run away from home.’ And I was like, ‘you’re right,’ because I didn’t know any better.”
Rojas says she had been surviving on a $3 an hour job, but because of DACA, she’ll get a Social Security number, work permit and a driver’s license and can apply for legal jobs, with full pay. She says this reality, thanks to the president’s DACA order, means her dreams of becoming an ultrasound tech could come true.
“I was so excited and happy,” says Rojas, who now attends the Community College of Philadelphia. “It wasn’t our fault that we came here. Our parents wanted a better life for us.”
Rojas says her ultimate dream is to become an American citizen.