Credit: Noah Kalina

Age: 28

On studying architecture as an undocumented immigrant:
I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and came to Los Angeles at age 8. In sixth grade I knew that I wanted to be an architect. I was accepted at Berkeley, the only University of California school with architecture as an undergraduate major. But I couldn’t afford to go. As an undocumented immigrant, I wasn’t eligible for public, state, or federal financial aid. So I lived at home and went to UCLA, paying my way by cleaning houses and through private donations and loans. I majored in sociology and minored in public affairs. Eventually, with the help of my dad and private scholarships, I enrolled in architecture school at UCLA. 

On the DREAM Act:
It became so important to me to help others get the chance to go to school. I ended up working with a huge group of college-educated, undocumented individuals advocating for civil rights in education. I went to D.C. to support Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), an author of the federal DREAM Act, who presented my story before the U.S. Senate.

My work now:

Thanks to President Obama’s deferred action decision, I now have a work permit for the next two years. I found this small firm owned by Latinos, Barrio Planners. The work is just what I was hoping to do—combining architecture and urban design with a regard for people and social justice.

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