Activist and Dreamer: Mayra Hidalgo Salazar
Justice For Our Neighbors - Florida
By Gary White, The Ledger, Lakeland, Florida
The following excerpt is from Gary's August 2013 article. Mayra received her DACA relief through JFON-Florida.
Mayra Hidalgo Salazar, an undocumented immigrant whose college prospects once seemed dim, is now headed to one of the nation's most respected colleges.
The Lakeland resident, a nationally known activist for immigrant rights, has received a full scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., the school she has dreamed of attending since she was a student at Harrison School for the Arts. Her enrollment for the fall semester marks a dramatic turnaround after two years of academic limbo.
"I'm one of the lucky 5 percent of undocumented youth who get to go to college," said Hidalgo. "It's been a tremendous blessing and a dream to get to this point." Hidalgo's parents brought her to the United States from Costa Rica when she was six months old.
Hidalgo got good news last year when President Barack Obama announced a new federal policy, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. Under that program, undocumented immigrants under age 31 who were brought to the country before age 16 and met certain other requirements became exempt from deportation and could apply for a two-year work permit.
Hidalgo received her work authorization, along with a modified Social Security card that allowed her to get a driver license. "Just the weight you feel lifted off your shoulders is indescribable," she said. "Just the tiniest things, like being able to go to the bank and show your ID, even being able to sign up for a gym membership — the tiniest things people don't often think about ... I'm constantly grateful because not everybody can do that."
*Photo Credit: SCOTT WHEELER | THE LEDGER