Immigrant Student Realizes His ‘Dream’

Carlos Manzanarez, who was recently granted Deferred Action, with Jackie Agudelo, director of the group that helped him, the United Community Center of Westchester. (Photo via Westchester Hispano)

Carlos Manzanarez Rojas, 22, arrived in the United States when he was 22 months old. He was brought by his parents when they immigrated from Mexico.

He has always been studious and is now majoring in science, with honors, at Purchase College. But he had to work for $4 an hour because he had no legal residence.

Manzanarez applied for Deferred Action and has just been approved. Now he feels like he has just begun to live.

“I got the call from my mother telling me that a letter had just come from Immigration with my work permit, and I got all emotional,” said the Mexican youth. “When I got home, my parents and I cried. At last I’ll be able to live well.”

In spite of graduating with high grades from Westchester County’s New Rochelle High School, the young student could not apply to top-rated universities because he had no Social Security card.

He experienced numerous difficulties before he could succeed in realizing his dream of becoming a legal resident. “I realized I was undocumented when my friends received their driver’s licenses and got jobs, something I couldn’t do. I had to work for $4 an hour, without complaining, because I needed it,” he said.

On August 15, when President Barack Obama announced his program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), “I called like crazy everywhere and came to know that the United Community Center of Westchester (UCCW) had two volunteers who offered a workshop on DACA,” said the student.

“I attended the talk that attorneys Corina Beth and Elsie Vásquez gave. I was also thankful for the information that UCCW director Jackie Agudelo provided.  They helped me with the application and everything worked out,” he added. The application process cost him about $800, including $450 in fees.

President Obama’s initiative for undocumented students is starting to change the lives of many young people.

Now Manzanarez is a year and a half away from graduating, and looking forward to a job with a decent wage.  His goal is to continue his studies to become a biochemist. “I like that career because I can work in a laboratory doing research,” he says. “Because a biochemist helps all of humanity.”

At home they are five siblings, the other four were born in this country, so he was the only one without papers. “It’s like starting from zero.  I’m going to buy a little car, I’ll start being my own man, and I won’t have to rely on the buses and trains anymore.”

Agudelo explained that her agency is dedicated to serving the community and that they have helped many young people benefit from the DACA law.

“We ask the youth who meet the requirements to fill out their information, and then the volunteer lawyers go over their cases, which are then presented to Immigration,” she said.

“We have some 25 cases awaiting approval. Anyone who needs help can come here, and we will point them in the right direction.”

The UCCW can be reached at (914) 813-2896.

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