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Carla Lopez

As a kid, I never dared to dream I’d be where I’m at today—starting my first day of law school at the University of San Francisco and looking forward to a future as an attorney helping immigrants whose stories are similar to my own. It was just three years ago that I lived my life by a simple rule—never be noticed, absolutely never mention my status as an undocumented immigrant to anyone, and never dream too big. But the course of my life changed in 2012 when I was approved for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, which grants some undocumented immigrants the ability to work legally in the U.S. and the security of knowing they won’t be deported.

Since then, my journey has taken me from being a U.C. Davis graduate to working full-time as NCLR’s immigration policy assistant and now attending law school with a plan of specializing in immigration law so I can continue helping others like me.

I was 2 years old when my parents, wanting nothing more than to improve our lives, brought me to the United States. My parents held a number of jobs in construction, house cleaning, and washing dishes in restaurants to save enough money to move away from the couch we shared in a friend’s home into our own one-bedroom apartment.

Growing up, school was a top priority. I worked hard to earn high grades to make it into college, knowing that my parents had sacrificed so much to pay for my education. But I lived in a constant, abiding state of fear—which affected every moment of my life—that my status would be found out. I never dared to truly dream that I would escape that fear until I joined NCLR as an intern in 2012 and it gave me hope—not only in myself, but in my future. Not only did NCLR help cover my DACA application fees as part of a fund it created for DREAMERs, but it nurtured my interest in social justice and helping others by hiring me as its immigration project assistant after I was granted a work permit. In many ways, NCLR has become a second family. My home.

Coming to work every day, I not only personally connected with our clients because of our similarities, but I also realized that we were all connected by our deep desire to live safe and productive lives in the U.S. Each and every one—their fears, their hopes—also reminded me of how our collective stories are intertwined. Over the years, I have become accustomed to how my identities as an undocumented queer woman of color overlap and intersect. And today, I am an undocumented queer woman of color with a work permit and a greater sense of hope for my future and the futures of others.

Thank you for supporting NCLR. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today—sitting in law school, with dreams, and hopes, and a future—without you. Always,

Carla Lopez
(Future attorney)

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