Community Leaders Organizing Undocumented Dreamers, or CLOUD, is a recently formed organization in Contra Costa County that is joining with Bay Area allies to empower and educate the community about the struggles of illegal immigrants while collectively striving to achieve equity.
To help the community understand their personal struggles, CLOUD leaders share their stories.
"I came here initially when I was 3, with Mom and Grandpa from San Salvador in El Salvador.
We lived in Daly City for a while. I was in kindergarten. I didn't speak any English. There was no bilingual class, so I had to forcibly learn English. My mom had some background in English, so every night she would read me books in broken English and I realized my mom's broken English sounded like the English in class.
I started getting good grades. Reading and writing became so intense -- something I loved to do. My mom bought me my first diary when I was 7.
When I was 9, my mom became really impatient and didn't want to live here. She got into a relationship with a man from Mexico and they got together and had my little brother.
We went to El Salvador for one year, then came back when I was 10. I came back on a plane with a visa, but my mom didn't tell me she had lied to get me in and she got deported.
That was probably the most heartbreaking thing for me, when I got the call from Auntie saying she was deported. She was seven months' pregnant with my sister and she was crossing all the borders. That was when I spent Christmas just with my brother and stepdad. My mom was gone three months, from October to Dec. 26.
Growing up, my immigration status wasn't a barrier at all. I got into Middle College High School, which is a program in the West Contra Costa district where you get a high school diploma and AA. I was really excited. First semester, I got all A's and one B.
Then everyone was applying for a driver's license and I found out I couldn't and that's when my whole world came crashing down and I figured I wasn't going to amount to anything.
So, my grades went down and I went back to Richmond High. I graduated in '09 and I ended up not going to college, until my mom found out you could go to City College of San Francisco and they didn't ask for your Social Security number.
I went to a counselor named Leti. But I didn't meet this amazing leader Carlos until 2011 when Leti again came into my life randomly in the parking lot and told me there was a center for undocumented students.
My brother and sister were born here. They're set. They're chill.
My little sister, who's 11, she sees how much I have struggled -- and my mom and my dad. She was telling Carlos she was going to become the first Chicana president or if not, become a zoologist.
Carlos has gotten me to where I am now in terms of leadership-building skills because he saw that I had potential. Now he's created such a big movement in Richmond.
That first event was crazy. There were over 300 in the church. We expected a max of 300 and it went over. We had screenings going on around tables. We had a lawyer answering questions.
In CLOUD, you see the enthusiasm. There's like this command, when Carlos walks into the room. And Jose Juan has a strong voice. Everyone has a talent and everyone contributes to the group every way they can.
You know how they say: 'Rome wasn't built in a day?'
And they always used to say the undocumented students were in the shadows. But I think now we're coming out of the shadows."
Theresa Harrington covers education. Reach her at 925-945-4764 or tharrington@bayareanewsgroup. Follow her at twitter.com/tunedtotheresa. Read her education blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.