Tatiana Vertiz, 26, was brought to this country when she was 3. At the end of this year, circumstances could dictate that she return to Mexico, a country in which she’s a foreigner, be deported or remain here without documents.
Just another DREAM Act kid, right? Not quite.
Most of the children and young adults who fit into this category have been in this country without legal documents. Vertiz has been here with legal documents the entire time. And while here, she’s racked up quite a life story.
Stellar student through high school, in Alamo Heights and elsewhere. Southern Methodist University graduate, with a degree in marketing. An amateur triathlon world champion – twice.
She thought she’d go pro and stay on an O visa, reserved for those who possess “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.” A back injury nixed that. And she is now working part-time on an H-1B visa at a firm that her stepfather helps run in Los Angeles. The visa expires in December.
She is grateful, but it’s not the job she wants. She’s been applying elsewhere for that desired marketing strategy job, but she will need a company to sponsor another visa for temporary foreign workers – in a field not lacking for domestic workers with that expertise, even down to the bilingual skills Vertiz possesses.
So, here’s the thing as galling to Vertiz as it is to every other DREAMer: She is as foreign to the United States as hamburgers and the Fourth of July. And, yet, she is treated as just another foreigner.
Her parents, divorced but remaining on friendly terms, are not rich, but they are not without means either. She is 26, however, and wants to stand on her own. She’d like the career choices and mobility that generally comes with full adulthood.
Return to Mexico?
“I don’t know how to deal with things when I’m there,” she said. “It’s like I’m a foreigner…. I’m as American as my friends.”
Her mother remarried – to a U.S. citizen – and is now a citizen, as is Vertiz' younger brother, who is U.S. born. Her mother has sponsored her for legal residency. This will take years. In the interim, she has to make a living.
Understand, Vertiz does not believe in “blanket naturalization” for those who have been here contrary to law. She describes her views as “Republican.”
“My argument is that having done everything right and legal, I, as of now and since college graduation, have faced an impossible task to get a job under visa sponsorship because I can’t prove I’m not taking an American job,” she said. “(But) I am just like any other American.”
Her visa might very well be extended – full time – at her stepfather’s firm. And her career will still be stalled.
I understand Vertiz’s point of view. But if her visa isn’t extended and she stays, her status won’t be unlike that of other DREAMers. Foreigners in their own country – and, if she stays, undocumented.
A DREAM Act is likely to be enacted – someday. Let’s hope that version includes Vertiz. In truth, there is little difference between kids brought here without their say, and Vertiz, brought without her say, but whose parents had money. Both sets are as American as apple pie.
To not let them stay would be a waste of the education given them, a squandering of future contributions and admission that our immigration system is broken on purpose.