I didn’t know I was an ‘illegal’ immigrant. My family and I immigrated to the United States in 2001, and within a matter of days I was smack dab in the middle of American culture. Even as a ten year old I bought into the American dream: honor roll bumper stickers, school choir, travel soccer team, and youth group. As far as I knew I was like every other kid on my end of the suburbs. However, things took a turn for the worse sophomore year of high school. It all began in that dreaded moment when I stepped into Drivers Ed. It was then that I realized I was different from everyone else. There was no way regardless how excellent of a driver or test-taker I was that I would be able to get a driver’s license. The problem was quite simple: I did not have a social security number.
At first it was just a bit of an inside joke. Amongst friends I was the foreigner who could not get his license yet. I played that card for a while, but the joke started getting uglier. Soon all my friends were applying for jobs, driving their cars around, and talking about colleges. I made a covenant with God, or rather I knew God had made one with me. If I put forth my best efforts in school, God would provide a way to a college degree. At first I felt hopeless whenever I would turn in an application with a big blank next to the ‘Social Security’ column. Despite that, God came through for my family and in the spring of my senior year of high school I received acceptance letters from every school I had applied to! Now the only obstacle left was paying for this venture. My first idea was to jump in with both feet. And so it was that fall of my freshman year I enrolled at Wheaton College in Illinois. However, I soon found out that God did not leave any open any doors at Wheaton as far as financial aid of any sort as no one in my family had a social security number we still were not eligible for any sort of government aid or bank loans. I left Wheaton after three weeks feeling frustrated but not defeated. Nevertheless, I continued to apply to more schools and scholarships, talking to anyone who would give me a clue as to how I could follow my dreams to go to college.
In the fall of 2009, God opened up a window for me. That window was Trinity Christian College in Illinois. God found the means to not only help me get a four-year college degree, but to do so with hardly any debt at all. However, those old worries began to creep up again as I neared graduation. While at Trinity I had focused my studies as a pre-med student, earning a degree in theology with minors in chemistry and philosophy. What in the world could I do with a college diploma but without a social security number? Medical school was out of the question. I was not even allowed to shadow doctors without a social security, much less be one. Trust me, I tried! It was then that I felt God’s call to ministry, yet again it seemed like all the doors were shutting in my face. After applying and being accepted to a couple of Masters of Divinity Programs, I decided to jump in again with both feet, trusting God to guide my path. The first few months at seminary have been financially challenging. I had to find the means to pay for rent, food, books, and other expenses without a job. The Lord has been gracious in sending people who have been more than generous in helping me financially,but I still needed another way of sustaining myself. And then a miracle happened! As it started becoming increasingly difficult to see how I was going to make it through the school year, I found out that I had been accepted for Deferred Action. As a beneficiary of the new immigration policy I now enjoy the privilege of a work permit and a social security number. I also now have a driver’s license and live without the fear of deportation. Now, thanks to God, I am serving as a youth director in a local congregation and working part time at a school library while studying full time at the seminary. It has been a difficult journey at times, but God’s hand has been there amidst all the struggles, providing faithfully for his servant. I hope that this new policy is changing the lives of others like it has mine.
Alberto La Rosa was born in Peru and has not yet received permanent residency with his family. He has a B.A. in Theology from Trinity Christian College.
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