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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."

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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