ALEJANDRA ESTRADA, 23: DREAMS OF GOING BACK TO SCHOOL

Alejandra EstradaAlejandra Estrada hasn’t known any other home than the United States. She was just 3 months old in 1989 when her mother brought her and her sister across the U.S.-Mexico border. They were coming to join Alejandra’s father, who had crossed earlier and was working construction jobs in Las Vegas. 

The family spoke Spanish at home, but Alejandra picked up English quickly when she started school. She excelled in school, but she was unsure what to do after high school graduation—especially since college seemed out of reach because of her status as an undocumented immigrant.

One day after high school graduation, Alejandra went along with her mother on a house-cleaning job. Before long, she was employed full-time by the Las Vegas cleaning company where her mother worked.

But after two years with the company, Alejandra and her mother both grew tired of how much their employer was taking advantage of them because of their undocumented status. She and her mother quit their jobs to start their own cleaning business, appropriately called “Mother Knows Best.”

“I owe absolutely everything to my mom, and I couldn’t watch the way she was being treated any more,” Alejandra said.
Alejandra said the cleaning business hasn’t been great, but she’s hoping that will soon change. She also is thinking about other career options if and when her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application is approved. One possibility: going back to school and majoring in early child development.

“A change of status could really change everything,” Alejandra said. “When I am with my friends, it’s like I’m a little kid. I can’t get a driver’s license so I have to always have someone pick me up. And even though I have been here since I was a baby, there’s still this feeling that I don’t belong. Becoming a citizen and getting all of that crazy stuff squared away will be an incredible relief.”