ANNANDALE, United States -- Nicolle Uria was 15 when her parents told her a shocking secret: she was an undocumented immigrant in the only country she has even known.
The teen, who was born in Bolivia, recalls that as her parents braced her two years ago for that gut-wrenching conversation, she expected something else to come out of their mouths.
“I immediately thought, ‘I’m adopted’, even though I look just like my sisters and my mom,” Uria told AFP.
“The last thing on my mind was finding out that I was undocumented,” said Uria, who is in her last year of high school in Annandale, Virginia outside Washington, and says she wants to study journalism in college.
She gets good grades, is on the school volleyball team and works on the school newspaper. But she is now worried that her dreams will go unrealized.
Last September, her life was turned upside down when President Donald Trump ordered an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era program that protected from deportation some 700,000 immigrants brought to the US illegally as children, as she was.
Trump gave Congress six months to work out something for these so-called “Dreamers,” most of them Latinos.
The program was supposed to end on March 5 but remains in force because of rulings from two federal judges suspending Trump’s decision.
While the program works its way through court and lawmakers have failed to agree on the fate of the “Dreamers,” Nicolle is terribly afraid of being separated from her parents, siblings and other family members.
“I would be going back to a country I don’t even know,” she said as she cried. “I have no memories of Bolivia.”
Nicolle’s parents brought her to America when she was a year old.
Ivan Uria, a former civil servant, and Giovanna Portugal, who studied to be an architect, worked in whatever they could find: cleaning homes or offices, at a gas station, looking after small children.
Their overriding goal was to get a good education for their three daughters. They always led Nicolle to believe she had been born in the United States.
“I did not want to break her heart telling her the truth,” said Portugal.
One time, Portugal asked her daughter’s Girl Scout leader to leave her out of a trip to the White House by telling her there was no room — she could not bear to tell Nicolle she did not have the papers needed to get into the presidential mansion.