Denis Lemos

Denis Lemos

Dracut, MA

In July of 2000 was brought by my parents to the United States. At first we had visitor visas but six months later we had overstayed, so we were undocumented.

My parents sought to change our status by obtaining sponsorship through a job offer and for a while it seemed like things were going to work out. I was 14 years old by then, and as a year went by I graduated from Fuller Middle School. In 2001 I started going to Framingham High School and I got a part time job at Kelly’s Roast Beef. In 2005 I graduated from High School, and I really wasn’t planning on going to college afterwards.

I was undocumented and I had no clue of how I would pay for college. I was also extremely tired from working and going to school for 4 years. Back then I was working 32 hour weeks and doing quite well in school so I wasn’t getting much sleep. A year went by and eventually I felt really bored and I realized I was missing going to school.

At that time I was already working as a server at Ken’s Steak House and I could pay for community college even if I didn’t get any financial aid. So I enrolled into the Electrical and Computer Engineering program at MassBay Community College.  When in college I felt incredibly motivated, and I learned to love engineering and computer science. I studied very hard for 3 years, so I graduated with highest honors and a GPA of 3.92.  I knew I would have to transfer to a University in order to get my bachelors degree. So with some financial help from my parents I enrolled into UMASS Lowell. I had enough money to pay for tuition and housing for one semester so I decided to give it a try, and I am so glad I did it. Going to a large university and living on campus was one of the best experiences of my life. I finally felt like I was on the right track. I was so happy that for the first time in a long time, I could focus on my education and work weekends only. I was taking five classes and doing really well. But one day in November, as I was leaving my Signals and Systems class I got a call from my brother.

That’s when I found out that our application for a green card was denied. For the past 10 years my family and I had been dealing with incompetent and perhaps crooked immigration lawyers. We spent more than $23,000 with legal and immigration fees. For ten years I waited for the day I could quit my job as a server, and begin my career in engineering. But I could never apply for internships and co-op jobs because I was undocumented. In 2008 I even qualified for a very cool, three month internship at Northeastern. I was going to learn a lot and acquire valuable work experience. But when it was time to fill out the paperwork my work authorization card was expired, so I couldn’t work there.

I had always believed that I would obtain my green card through my father’s sponsorship or something good would come out of my academic performance. But it didn’t, and now I am on removal proceedings. When our application for a green card was denied my parents left the country. They were tired of living like this and they were ready to retire, so they went back to Brazil in February of 2010.

I reluctantly decided to take a break from college so that I could sort out my life.  My first court hearing was in March of 2009. In court my lawyer asked the judge to give us more time to prepare our case so he scheduled another court hearing for July of that same year. This is where I stand now, I really don’t know what to do and I have a court hearing coming up this summer.

Going back to Brazil would be very difficult for me at this time. I don’t speak Portuguese very well anymore, and my writing is far worse. I want to get a college degree, have to, but it will be very difficult to start all over again in a strange country.

I consider myself an American citizen even though that is not what my documents say.

I have lived in Massachusetts ever since I was 14 years old and I became a man in this community. I own a house, I have a stable job, some family and many friends that are like a second family to me. I need help so I can stay in this country and continue to live my life. I want one day to become a professional engineer and contribute the economy and growth of this nation. I am an adult now and I am very comfortable with who I am, and my place in my community. I dread the idea of having to start over.  I haven’t committed any crimes and yet I have to fight for a normal life. I love this country, and I want is a normal life without restraints in this place that I call home.

In November of 2011 I received a call from my lawyer informing me that I had been granted prosecutorial discretion. This meant that immigration was closing my case and allowing me to stay in the country. I received these news with great joy. Over the summer of 2011 I had been working with the Student Immigrant Movement, and with their help, we launched the Education Not Deportation campaign. We reached out to the media, elected officials and my community in order to share my story and gather support to stop my deportation, and we won.

Now I write this as a full time college student once more. I am extremely happy to be once again on right track for a better future. However, even though DHS has agreed to let me stay, they have not provided me with any means to adjust my status or obtain a work authorization card. So until there is law that allows me to adjust my status all that I have learned at Umass Lowell as an engineer will be wasted because I can’t work in this country.

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