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Undocumented woman hopes to become medical assistant someday

August 15, 2012 |  2:19 pm

Deportation reprieve applicants
The 20-year-old sported skinny jeans and a tie-dyed shirt that read "Boston College" in rhinestones on the day she dared to announce her plan to stay in America. On her feet were pink-and-orange hightops; on her face, a mask of black sunglasses.

But behind the shades, Darkis Caballeros' eyes danced at the thought of no longer hiding her immigration status, no longer fearing what someone might do to her or her family.

She and her 16-year-old sister, Cintya, stood in line Wednesday at the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles waiting to turn in applications for deferred action for childhood arrivals.

They had left Guatemala City five years earlier to join their mother in Lawndale. It was difficult to navigate American life with little money and a handful of English. But when Darkis graduated from high school, she learned it was even more difficult to get by without the proper documentation.

It's been hard to find a job. She dropped out of community college because she couldn't make the payments. If she were allowed to live and work legally, she'd become a medical assistant.

"And have a car," she said, smiling. "With a license."

Although she lived most of her life in another country, she can't imagine going back.

"I feel like an American already."

It was a sentiment echoed by hundreds of others who came to the center, beginning to line up outside the glass doors at 3 a.m. They came with backpacks, with parents, to fill out applications, wait their turn for an attorney's guidance and sit through workshops.

Some ran into friends and chatted eagerly; others found a quiet space to themselves to pore over paperwork.

"It's a historical day," said the center's interim executive director Martha Arevalo, "because it's their victory. Students came together and organized for themselves. They feel American but the world told them differently. It's a temporary solution, but a solution nonetheless."


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Photo: Hundreds line up Wednesday outside the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images