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Acting on a Dream: A Look Into the Life of an Undocumented Student

Keyla Santizo, 22, shares her account of growing up as an undocumented immigrant and her journey toward getting the second part of the state Dream Act signed by the governor.

At first glance, 22-year-old Keyla Santizo seems wise beyond her years, carrying herself as a strong, intelligent young woman with a bright future.

But Santizo can't drive to school and or apply for any academic scholarships.

It's not that she can't afford a car or doesn't have the grades to apply for a scholarship.

It's all because of "one piece of paper."

Santizo is an undocumented immigrant living in Cherryland.

She has lived in the Bay Area since she was 3, after emigrating from Guatemala on her mother's back with her older sister by their side.

"I've been in the shadows for so long, it's time to step up into the light," Santizo said during an immigration forum at E. "The United States is my home — it's all I know."

She discovered her illegal status for the first time in the seventh grade, after getting invited to go on a field trip to a Civil Rights museum.

After excitedly sharing the news with her mother, she was told why she couldn't submit the permission slips and go on this trip.

But Santizo also recalls her mother telling her, "Don't let that stop you. You're going to go to college. You're going to make something of yourself."

And so she chased after this dream.

Santizo went on to graduate early from high school and was accepted to several four-year universities. However, she hit another hurdle.

She couldn't apply for any financial aid and had to turn down several scholarships because of her status.

Despite many pushing for undocumented students to receive higher education, it was nearly impossible for Santizo to do so because of the current immigration laws.

"I'm sort of stuck in some kind of limbo," Santizo said.

However, thanks to passage of the first portion of the California DREAM Act, she was able pay in-state tuition for Chabot College.

It was there where she discovered Chabot's Active Dreamers, a group of 20 students and supporters who banded together in 2010 and .

Next on their agenda: Urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign follow-up legislation, AB 131, which is currently sitting on his desk.

The law would allow students like Santizo to receive further access to a broader range of the state's public universities. It would also grant them eligibility to apply for and receive Cal Grants.

Above all, it would place her one step closer to achieving her ultimate dream — building a non-profit art school in Guatemala.

"My mom gave me a fighting chance to succeed and if I could give that to at least one person, then I'll do it," she said. "Over there, art is considered a luxury."

However, Santizo said AB 131 does not compare to the national bill that would have granted citizenship to thousands of undocumented students who entered the U.S. illegally as children. After being passed in the House, the bill died, five votes shy in the Senate this past December.

"I can't help but say [AB 131] is a Band-Aid for us after all of this," she said. "But it's a step."

Tim October 04, 2011 at 06:42 PM
It's all because of "one piece of paper." No, it's because your parents BROKE THE LAW and came here ILLEGALLY. While tragic that children are involved and I do feel sympathetic for their situations, I cannot support any measures like this so long as the border remains unsecured. We are providing incentive for more illegals to flock into this country. Secure the damn border once and for all and then lets talk about providing assistance for illegal alien children. And not for nothing, but no one is denying these children college. We already allow in state tuition. The issue is should they be entitled for PUBLIC loans and grants. I say ABSOLUTELY NOT. I don't want one single dollar of my hard earned tax dollars to go to support illegal aliens. Again, ACCESS to public services is one thing, but subsidizing it with taxpayer dollars is a big no no. The federal DREAM act should have been called the NIGHTMARE act and thankfully thanks to Obama's shrinking poll numbers the likelihood of the GOP retaining control of the House is foregone conclusion making the federal dream act DEAD on Arrival! I could care less about AB131 as I'll be leaving this godforsaken broken state soon.
Doughboy47 October 05, 2011 at 04:26 AM
TIM THE PILGRIM like always talking nothing but hate on the net.@#%^ why dont u leave already back to europe....O GOD BLESS THIS COUNTRY OF IMMIGRANTS
Milan Moravec October 05, 2011 at 04:37 AM
University of California Berkeley: the need for transparency has never been so clear. Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) displaces qualified for public university education at Cal. instate Californians for a $50,600 payment and a foreign passport. UC Berkeley, ranked # 70 Forbes, is not increasing enrollment. Birgeneau accepts $50,600 FOREIGN students at the expense of qualified Californians. UC Regent Chairwoman Lansing and President Yudof agree to discriminating against instate Californians for foreigners. Birgeneau, Yudof, Lansing need to answer to Californians. Your opinion makes a difference; email UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu
Geoff Burton October 05, 2011 at 05:40 AM
I don't want to say anything because I'll be accused of either being a hater that should go back to Europe , (after a couple hundred years here in the United States my family would be illegal aliens in Europe) . If on the other hand I sided with those who entered this country illegally I would be some kind of screaming Liberal who dose not respect our laws or National Sovereignty , so I won't say anything. Wait my wife is an immagrant of only 25 yrs so,( wait she immagrated leagally or the hard way ) never mind.
Tim October 05, 2011 at 09:03 AM
The only hate I have is at our government for not taking border security seriously. Actually only one side of my family traces back to Europe, the other half is NATIVE American so I might have a hard time "returning to Europe." That said, they came here LEGALLY, that is they waited in line to get in through Ellis Island. And while were on the subject, no one spoke Italian for them, no one offered in state tuition, welfare programs, etc. No, they learned ENGLISH and they worked their behinds off just to survive. My girlfriend is a foreigner. She waited in line jumped through all the hoops to get her green card and came here LEGALLY. I'm tired of whining liberals like you who have to respect for our laws. Here's another thought for you... even IF Brown signs this garbage and illegal aliens get taxpayer money to attend these schools, how do they ever expect to get legal employment? That's something this stupid state can not grant. Only the federal government can touch that one and fortunately most of the rest of the states of this nation see through this crap.
Paul Brewer October 05, 2011 at 02:46 PM
I've been to EUROPE seven times and each time I "go back to EUROPE" there are more and more non native immigrants who find the place ALOT better than their homeland.....and few them are asked to go back to Somalia or Pakistan.
jerry October 05, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Thats because the Europeans believe in socialism and have sold out their hertiage. They are now beginning to wake up to the massive problem they have created and can see that their socialist dreams are in reality a nightmare
don honda October 05, 2011 at 05:44 PM
The conclusion of this article is correct: AB 131 is a Band-Aid. AB 131 would add $38 Million of debt to our bankrupt State's budget. AB 131 Students will not be able to be legally employed as it does not provide a path to citizenship. A Federal DREAM Act that would provide this path for this specific student population will not happen in the near future. Santizo's goal: get a free higher education on the backs of US Citizens and leave the country anyway to go back to Guatemala. As much as her aspirations are lofty, why are US Citizens made responsible for the Illegal decisions of her mother? Since Santizo is now an adult, why doesn't she pursue the current path to US Citizenship available to her since "The United States is my home — it's all I know."? Why isn't there any sense of feeling obligated to the United States for harboring, educating, and taking care of her health all these years? What are the "economic advantages" we hear about when AB 131 students will just take the free financial aid and just leave anyway?
Doughboy47 October 05, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Been to Iraq twice going on a 3rd trip to Afghanistan so i think i can say what the hell i want to say TIM !
jerry October 05, 2011 at 07:36 PM
He will, if you carry his bags. See reply about socialism, and than maybe you will get it.
jerry October 05, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Not really, you can think what you want,but other people have a right to their opinions with out being insulted by others,so grow up littleboy.
Tim October 05, 2011 at 08:04 PM
EXCELLENT point!!! I completely missed that... she wants the California tax-payer to subsidize her education so she can give back to the community.... in GUATEMALA. What a joke. First she says the United States is the only home she knows and in the next breath wants to give back to Guatemala after mooching off of the California tax-payer.
Tim October 05, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Yes you can say whatever you want no matter how ignorant you are. But, since you've been overseas and seen how other governments work, perhaps you'd be happier if the USA adopted Iran's immigration laws? We saw how they treat those who illegally enter their country...
Tim October 05, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Yes, lets be more like Europe... how about France, where it's illegal for women to wear a burqa in public...
Geoff Burton October 05, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Before we get to far off track Doughboy47, What do you have to say about the issue at hand. Thanks for you service.
don honda October 05, 2011 at 10:56 PM
Um, Legal Immigrants, for the most part.
Doughboy47 October 06, 2011 at 10:08 PM
i think we should as a country try to fix our attitude. like it say's in the good book Do not oppress the poor, whether they be slaves, neighbors, or strangers. 24:14-15
jerry October 06, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Doughboy-there is another saying in the good book and it goes like this"cast not your pearls bsfore the feet ow swine"
Doughboy47 October 07, 2011 at 06:44 PM
lol jerry ur a funny guy.
Tim October 09, 2011 at 03:28 AM
So Moonbeam signed AB131 so now ILLEGAL ALIENS can further ride the backs of the California taxpayer. What a jackass... he makes the Jerkinator look good by comparison. Can someone tell me how this makes any sense when in-state tuition for legal citizens has skyrocketed and the state can't even adequately fund K-12 education? These illegal aliens who get their degrees with the support of taxpayer money won't even be able to gain legal employment in CA or anywhere else in this country... what a disaster. It's time to get the hell out of CA.
Joe October 11, 2011 at 10:40 PM
deport her fat ass back to guatemala!!!

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