Julissa Arce was 14 and living in Texas when she learned she was an undocumented immigrant. “I didn’t understand the weight of the secret my mom had revealed to me,” Arce, who is now a U.S. citizen, says of the revelation. Her journey from “living in the shadows” to a high perch on the corporate ladder has inspired an improbable career as a bestselling author — and has changed lives.
“To me the word ‘immigrant’ is really about strength. It’s really about how much we give to America of our talents and our hard work to make the country better,” Arce told Yahoo.
I was 14 years old when I found out I was undocumented. I had been bugging my mom for weeks about going to Mexico so I could celebrate my quinceañera. I dreamt of my quinceañera since I was five years old- of my dress and the dances. Hesitantly, my mom told me I couldn't go to Mexico because I wouldn't be able to come back to the U.S. Seventeen years later, I became a U.S citizen, on August 8, 2014.
A post shared by Julissa Arce (@julissaarce) on Mar 29, 2017 at 7:54pm PDT
Arce, who went on to become a VP at Goldman Sachs as well as an author, social advocate, and champion for higher education, came to Texas from Mexico on a tourist visa when she was 11 years old. At 14, her visa expired. Arce’s younger brother was born in the U.S.; her parents still had visas; but she was the only one who was undocumented. “Everything about my life was about hiding this one fact about my life, making sure that no one found out, and so I learned how to hide.”
Even in kindergarten I shook them haters off 🙅🏽 I was teased and called an "orphan" because my parents were in the U.S. I wrote all about it in my book, " My (Underground) American Dream" 📕📗📘 I was on a conservative talk radio show recently. I know how those interviews go. I know the little jabs, the condescending, “congratulations for your success, tell me about those fake papers”. When I was nineteen years old, I bought a fake green card and a fake social security card. It was the only way I could keep working and paying for college. I know how those interviews go, the accusations, the name calling; illegal, illegal alien, criminal. I brush them off. But this next accusation struck a cord with me, “the people waiting in line have sacrificied so much, and here you are breaking the law and being rewarded with citizenship”. I remind you, there is no line. Call me what you will, but sacrifice, I know sacrifice. If you want to know what real sacrifice is, ask an undocumented immigrant to tell you their story. Read my full story here (link in bio): https://email@example.com/immigrants-know-sacrifice-ace109846041
A post shared by Julissa Arce (@julissaarce) on May 4, 2017 at 10:37am PDT
Her second memoir, “Someone Like Me,” which was released in September, is meant for young readers age 10 and up. The central theme: Arce’s own American dream of going to college and overcoming the obstacles of her immigration status. “I found myself saying, ‘Someone like me can go to college, someone like me can become a Vice President at Goldman Sachs, and someone like me was not supposed to make it that far,’ but I did,” she said.
“I remember being in middle school and never reading any books in school that reflected my experiences as a Latina, as a Mexican-American, as an immigrant, as a brown girl.”
Arce’s first book, 2016’s “My (Underground) American Dream,” became a bestseller. She’s working with actress America Ferrera to develop the book into a TV show.
In 2012, Arce started the Ascend Educational Fund to give students, regardless of their immigration status, a chance at higher education. “Education is a human right. Every child, regardless of their ethnicity, deserves to have a quality education,” she said. Arce has been able to award close to $500,000 in scholarships to more than 50 students.
She became a U.S. citizen in 2014. “What really stayed with me is not the tears that I had writing the book but this kind of renewed sense of hope that I got. My American dream now is about opening doors of opportunity for other people.”
“Becoming an American Citizen means accepting the world as your nation.” Those were the words of the judge who presided over my naturalization ceremony on August 8th, 2014. But as I celebrate my third American birthday, our country is doing the opposite of accepting the world as our nation. The life of 800,000 Americans are on the balance as DACA is under attack. This was taken just minutes after I said yes to America. Please read and share my op-ed on HuffPost. Link in my bio. 📸 @morriganm
A post shared by Julissa Arce (@julissaarce) on Aug 8, 2017 at 5:24pm PDT
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