Weren't my sacrifices and sleeplessness worth it?

Graduation season is here and with it, the world of opportunities and dreams is opening up more and more. For many, this is the American dream, a testament to all the hard work and everyone who came before and paved the way for them to cross that stage. For many, but not for all.

Immigration laws in the United States have only gotten worse in recent years which directly impacts those who just want to use their skills and tools to make the country that rejects them a better place.

While, for many, closing that chapter of their lives has brought joy and excitement, others can't help but feel a burning sense of uncertainty and sadness. Going off stage thinking what now? Weren't my sacrifices and sleeplessness worth it?

With the recent decision by the University of California (UC) system to hire undocumented students for positions on the campus, many students have begun to wonder why the California State University (CSU) system has not chosen to do the same.

Graduate America Castillo

According to EdSource, “There are an estimated 1,700 students with DACA status enrolled in the 10-campus UC system. Between 50,000 and 70,000 undocumented students enrolled in the state's 115 community colleges and about 9,500 at the 23 California State University campuses.

Andrea Peña Reyes, an immigrant from Honduras and América Castillo, an immigrant from Mexico, are two proud recent graduates of California State University Northridge (CSUN) with an emphasis in broadcast journalism.

Both have had to sacrifice a lot in the name of a better future. A future that could fall apart at any moment. However, both have persisted and achieved what they set out to do years ago and vow to strive to achieve even more in the future.

For Castillo, the road has been long as it has been almost ten years since he graduated from high school. Back then, she did not enjoy the security and opportunities afforded by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Graduate Andrea Peña Reyes

It wasn't until she was able to get her work permit that she felt a new sense of relief and hope that Castillo began applying for internships in her chosen field of study: journalism.

“I worked several different jobs to gain experience and even did a few unpaid internships and eventually landed an entry level job at a well known media company. So now with my work permit, I feel like I can achieve anything if I keep working hard,” says Castillo.

However, like many DACA recipients, Castillo still feels limited in more ways than one, unable to travel to her birthplace. She, too, cannot apply to jobs that require leaving the country, which is common in the journalism industry.

Castillo looks forward to expanding further, both in the industry and in his skills, and to continue working on his podcast that he started during his time at CSUN.

“I want to continue taking basic art classes to improve my drawing and comic skills to tell more stories with my comic book character, Lil Murr. I also hope to continue with at least one full season of my podcast, Las Chismosas Del Valle,” says Castillo.

Reyes, like Castillo, dreams of the day her legal situation improves and she can free herself from the chains that hold her down. Reyes, who is undocumented and does not have a work permit or DACA, has missed out on many opportunities over the years.

“My situation does not allow me to advance professionally since there are very few opportunities to pursue my career. It affects me mentally because I feel like I'm not enough and that I have a wall in front of me, even though I want to run far, it doesn't let me move forward,” says Reyes.

Since most internships require a work permit, Reyes often found himself turning down opportunities due to his legal status. She did not have the opportunity to get an internship or gain the experience that comes with it despite being chosen time and time again by her teachers and professionals alike.

“It seems to me that universities have to offer opportunities for all students regardless of their status. They already have all our information and allow us to study and obtain scholarships. It seems to me that the second step is that they give us the opportunity to work within the universities and connect with our campus,” says Reyes.

The path to graduation was not easy or linear for either of them. Being accepted into the journalism program at CSUN in 2020 was a very confusing and quite lonely time for both of them, but despite the challenges they managed to achieve their goals.

Currently, Reyes works as a freelance journalist for La Opinión and dreams of the day when she can work as a producer or reporter at a news station.

“One of my goals is to work at a news station on TV or radio. Another of my goals is to travel to different parts of the United States and the world, but because of my situation I am still in the same place,” says Reyes.

It is the uncertainty of tomorrow that makes the uphill battle ever more difficult. There is no guarantee that there will be any protection tomorrow, so they both speak for the community when they call for more compassion and understanding.

“Stop seeing us as a threat to this country. We are only human, and like the founding fathers, we only want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This country can be better if we all learn from each other and work together,” says Castillo.

“I am so happy to see my community grow stronger despite the political climate. We could hide and make ourselves small, but we choose to be loud and fight for what is right."

Author Profile

Nathan Rivera
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Nathan Rivera, a dedicated journalist who has had the privilege of writing for the online newspaper Today90. My journey in the world of journalism has been a testament to the power of dedication, integrity, and passion.

My story began with a relentless thirst for knowledge and an innate curiosity about the events shaping our world. I graduated with honors in Investigative Journalism from a renowned university, laying the foundation for what would become a fulfilling career in the field.

What sets me apart is my unwavering commitment to uncovering the truth. I refuse to settle for superficial answers or preconceived narratives. Instead, I constantly challenge the status quo, delving deep into complex issues to reveal the reality beneath the surface. My dedication to investigative journalism has uncovered numerous scandals and shed light on issues others might prefer to ignore.

I am also a staunch advocate for press freedom. I have tirelessly fought to protect the rights of journalists and have faced significant challenges in my quest to inform the public truthfully and without constraints. My courage in defending these principles serves as an example to all who believe in the power of journalism to change the world.

Throughout my career, I have been honored with numerous awards and recognitions for my outstanding work in journalism. My investigations have changed policies, exposed corruption, and given a voice to those who had none. My commitment to truth and justice makes me a beacon of hope in a world where misinformation often prevails.

At Today90, I continue to be a driving force behind journalistic excellence. My tireless dedication to fair and accurate reporting is an invaluable asset to the editorial team. My biography is a living testament to the importance of journalism in our society and a reminder that a dedicated journalist can make a difference in the world.