Faces of Dreamers: Martha Paz, University of Texas

February 3, 2020

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This is one in a series of posts on individual Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as young children, many of whom are under threat of deportation following the Trump administration’s decision in September 2017 to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA.

University of Texas student Martha Paz’s story is not unique.

When she was three months old, she and her family left Mexico, eventually resettling in a Dallas suburb. She worked hard in school and was among the top 10 students in her high school graduating class. Like over 124,000 other Texans, she also received a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) designation during the Obama administration. 16 years old at the time, Paz quickly tested for her driver’s license, and using her knowledge as a black belt in karate, taught children’s self-defense classes.

What is unique is the cultural climate that Paz has been forced to navigate.

Though Paz is currently on track to complete her degree in two years, with a Supreme Court decision on the fate of DACA looming, she cannot help but feel apprehensive.

“It does scare me,” she said in an article for the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s scary that I won’t be able to use my degree for whatever I’m going to work for.”

While she is holding onto the hope that a U.S.-based company will sponsor her work visa after graduation, she accepts the reality that she might have to try to find a job in Mexico instead.

Until that time, Paz is working to help fellow Dreamers. She is creating an undocumented student network to help students in Texas understand the ins and outs of college.

“I believe undocumented students have been able to surpass a lot of challenges; that makes them good workers,” Paz said. “Helping people like that would help them in the future to advance in other ways.”

—Zubin Hill

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