My name is Luz Sandoval. Luz,means light, like a shiny bright light. I am a junior at UC Merced and I have channeled my love of community and passion for numbers into my studies as a business undergraduate, majoring in management and minoring in psychology. As an undocumented student lacking a driver’s license, I commuted by bus to college for two years. My mother works two jobs in order to make ends meet, this year, she emptied her own savings account so that I could finally experience a semester living on campus.
In the summer of 2012, I dealt a crushing blow: I missed the eligibility criteria for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because I came to the U.S. one short month after the cutoff date of June 15, 2007. Thirty short days barred me from accessing a work permit and a social security number, two documents that open worlds of opportunity for undocumented people of working age. Undaunted, I trudged on, and with tuition assistance through the California Dream Act, which provides financial aid for undocumented college students, I was able to access higher education. Last summer, I took an accounting class and discovered my natural talent for that particularly structured world of numbers and business. Showing promise, I was encouraged by my professor to continue cultivating a career path for myself in accounting. Once again I was saddened to learn that in order to practice as an accountant, I would need to become licensed – a process requiring the social security number that I do not have.
Though graduation lies two years away, the urgency of finding a solution to my situation ticks loudly like a countdown in my mind. There does however, lie one beacon of hope – if I am allowed to use my Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to complete my certification process, I would be able to practice as a self-employed accountant, and come to the rescue of those individuals who would rather undergo a root canal than have to balance a budget. Earlier this year, Senator Lara introduced SB 1159, a bill that proposes to amend the state licensing process to allow Californians like myself to use an ITIN in lieu of a social security number when applying for licensure. With gridlock and inaction on the federal front in relation to immigration policy, California has taken a proactive approach by allowing undocumented students like myself to pay in-state tuition, access driver’s licenses, and secure state-based financial aid.. Through these investments, California is unlocking the potential of its undocumented population, of which my path to college is a shining example.
But that light is still dimmed by yet another roadblock. Many undocumented young people like myself, do not qualify for DACA, which targets a rather narrow population lucky enough to meet all of its requirements. Without a social security number and without a change in federal policy, my career in accounting is inaccessible even once I gain all of the education and skills necessary to succeed in my industry.
Case-by-case attempts to salvage parts of this untapped pool of talent have been successful, as evidenced by that passage of a bill to allow undocumented attorney Sergio Garcia to practice law, and the UCSF admission this fall of its first undocumented medical student. These two exceptions are simply a drop in the pool of undocumented workers – future attorneys, doctors, and lawyers – that currently make up nearly 10% of California’s workforce and collectively contribute around $130 billion to the state’s GDP.
Standing in the midst of uncertainty, I still have bright hopes for my future, one in which I am a successful Latina businesswoman who contributes back to her community by raising funds to help other students access higher education. As the countdown in my head ticks quietly, yet ever-present, my back up plan is to volunteer my accounting talents post-graduation and continue on to graduate school. My story is one of many across the state, beacons of light across a variety of industries and professions that lie ripe with potential, but are barred from contributing. SB 1159 currently awaits signature on Governor Brown’s desk – I hope he gives space to the light from the immigrant community to shine brighter than ever.Luz Sandoval is part of Educators for Fair Consideration the parent organization of Pre-Health Dreamers, a local partner for the Documented theatrical run in Berkeley, CA. Luz was born in Tijuana, Baja California and immigrated to Baldwin Park, California at the age of 14 with her mom in search of a better future. She attended and graduated from Sierra Vista High School with honors and currently attends UC Merced. Her goal is to pursue a career in accounting and help her family obtain a well deserved life.