Undocumented Immigrant Speaks Out About Her Status
When 11-year-old Fernanda Marroquin traveled with her family from Peru to the U.S., she remembers the excitement shared among her and her two siblings. That’s because, she says, her parents told them they were taking them to Disney World.
“I thought we were gonna vacation here!” she laughs. “I told my [extended] family, ‘I’ll see you soon, I’m not gonna be away too long.’ I didn’t know why they were crying so much when we said ‘goodbye.’”
Even after living in the United States for more than a decade, Marroquin, now 21, has never actually made it to Disney World.
She’s been living in the U.S. since her tourism visa expired, and she has no plans of moving back to Peru– her birth country where remembers very little about.
Her parents owned a once-successful restaurant in Lima, Peru, that did so well they took out loans to expand it to the second floor of the building.
When the economy tanked, however, people stopped eating out, Marroquin remembers. Her parents were soon losing a lot of money and they couldn’t afford to send their children to school. They eventually had to sell everything they owned, including their house and restaurant.
“We moved in my grandma’s house. My brother, my sister, my parents and I all lived in one room there. It was very tight.” Marroquin says.
That’s when her parents took a risk. They would come to America on a tourism visa and find opportunity here, even after the visa would expire six months later. “That’s when we became undocumented,” she says, though she didn’t know it at the time. Her parents hoped the U.S. would pass a pro-immigration bill before their children graduated high school. That never happened. Instead, the Marroquin children learned about their statuses as undocumented immigrants after Fernanda’s older sister applied to college and failed to receive in-state tuition.
“I’m not waiting for a federal Dream Act to pass anymore. I’m tired of false promises,” she sighs. Which is why she’s speaking out about her undocumented status. “People have this vision of America where anything is possible. You know, the American Dream is real to a lot of people outside of America,” she says. “My American Dream is being able to provide for my family.”
Marroquin attends Montgomery County Community College, about 45 minutes outside of Philly, although she has aspirations of attending Penn State or Temple University.
“My education is everything to me and everything to my parents. That’s what they came here for.”
But because of her status, she can’t work legally or pay in-state tuition. So paying for college has become a challenge.
State Rep. Tony Payton Jr. of Philadelphia is working to change that, however, and introduced legislation on Monday that would allow undocumented immigrants to attend Pa.’s public schools for the same price as those who legally live in the country, which could eventually allow a path to citizenship, PN reported.
Until something actually does, Marroquin says she’ll continue speaking out and making the best opportunities for herself and her family in a country that she prefers to call her home.