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I was brought to this country in the year 1995 when I was 10 years old. My mom decided we had no future in Monterrey, Mexico and she decided to try her luck across the border. I grew up not being aware of the fact that I was undocumented and I did my best to fit in.

When I was about to graduate high school I learned of a program my school offered that would allow me to finish in three years instead of four. When I went to my counselor to seek advice I was told that since I was Hispanic and a female that I would never be able to finish school in three years. He advised me to consider myself lucky if I did not end up being pregnant at the age of 16. I was devastated, I felt so angry that I decided to ignore his so-called “advice” and pushed myself to finish.

I took night classes, plus my regular school hours and I worked to just make it through. I think my hard work paid off and I was able to graduate high school against all odds in May 2002. I was very touched by the movie "Papers." I felt my life was displayed and I saw myself in every youth out there that is going through the same struggles I faced. I am writing you because I was fortunate enough to obtain three college degrees even though I am undocumented. I want others to know that if I could do it, they can too. Please know that even though my status has not changed I was able to face and overcome the giants in my life and being now married and with our first child on the way I am proud of all the youth that are out there facing their obstacles head on with such courage and strength.

Even though my future in this country is uncertain, and even though we might end up moving back to Mexico by the end of the year I feel a sense of accomplishment. I saw all the struggles and sacrifices my parents made for my siblings and me that I am forever thankful to them. Many people in this country may call us many names, but they were never able to break my spirit. My mom called it “el espíritu de superación” and that is exactly what we are doing. We are fighting to make something of ourselves and for a brighter future. Thanks for all you do and for making this film. I only pray and hope that it touch’s the life of those who see us as the enemy.

– Elizabeth, 25 years old


Sandra and Vilma from "Papers" Youth Crew, El Grupo Juvenil, at the May 1st Immigration Rights March, 2010


Working Wonders Winners: Vose Elementary!

Vose Elementary: WOrking Wonders Winners

Hello, I'm a Beaverton teacher and saw the PCC screening of Papers while I was making a short video with some students in our bilingual program. Your movie helped me shape our message and I wanted to share with your our final product.

Our 5 min version won Best Elem. Documentary in Beaverton's Signal to Noise competition and our 3 min version won first prize Oregon-wide from OEA and $3,000.
All because of some amazing Latino youth. Take a look and I hope we can inspire you in return to continue the fight for justicia.

5 min version:
http://www.saravandepasphotography.com/Personal-work/Proud-to-be-bilingual/11493075_TpYmX#808689520_SvBqF

3 min version:

Working Wonders Winners:
Vose Elementary!

Vose Elementary teacher Sara Vanderpas asked her 5th grade students: if the school won the $3000 first place for their category, what they would like to do with the money? "Prom!" the students declared. Vanderpas then suggested the money be donated for a school-wide project. Vanderpas (holding check) and fellow teachers Patrick Birkle (black shirt) and Melissa Gonzalez (gray sweater), all featured in the winning "Bridging the Diversity Divide" entry, have donated their winnings to their school.

– Sarah


It is 12:44 am and I have just gotten home. I feel imprisoned. I am thankful I have a job, but this job makes me work until midnight, sometimes three in the morning. And then the next day I have to go to school, catch the bus at 7 and stay up late doing homework.

All to be able to pay for my college tuition because I can not get federal financial aid. This is my reality. This is sad, confusing, and makes me full of anger. I don't know what else to do. I feel like I am being punished for something I didn't do. Its the worst feeling in the world, coming home crying realizing that in this world you have to eat crap to be able to do something with your life and not just because life is unfair, but added to that is the fact that you are considered no one. And if you are you are an alien, an illegal human being. This is really depressing and having to find guts to continue to study to pursue my dream to not just say f*** all this and move back to my country is the hardest part about it. I feel confused, angry, depressed, but overall I feel strong. I feel like thanks to people like you I am not alone, that there is a fight out there towards justice, towards being able to be free from these chains that don't allow you to continue, called papers. Because if you boil it down to the truth all this is is the lack of that number, which defines you as a person, which defines you as a worthy human being. In my opinion this is slavery. And the reason why it's not going anywhere towards freedom is because its "profitable" to give all those workers that work for so little, leaving the big employers with the most money. Sadly this is why it's stuck. Because the government will hear the voice of those businessmen rather than us who are suffering.

I just want you to know that what you are doing makes all the kids in my position feel like we have someone that cares. That we are not alone and there are Americans out there who believe we are all equal and should be treated as such, and not just people who are blind to the injustice happening next door, or to their kid's friends. I am happy to know about this project's success and how far it's going and sad that I can not be a more active member because I am scared of being deported or treated differently by the people that know me. Thank you for listening.

– Eva, age 19, Student Blogger


Jan 10, 1990. It's unusually cold here tonight in the arid town of San Miguel, Oaxaca. There's apparently no soap to wash me, so I'm laid to rest on my mother's stomach (as we sleep together for the first time) to keep the ants away. From what I'm later told, only my grandmother was present to aid my mother in the delivery.

Spring 1992. My mother and father left today, they plan to work for one year in New York and then return.

Spring 1993. There's been a change of plans, after a year of separation our father has returned to take my older sister and me across the border and to our new home in New York. We cross the border somewhere in Arizona, the three of us, with our aunt. Looking back, I can't remember a time when I didn't live with my parents, but I did, anyways, I’m glad our family is together again.

Fall 1994. With much anticipation, I’ve begun school. I’m actually too young to enter kindergarten at four, but my mom submitted a forged Mexican birth certificate. For the next 13 years by birthday will be December 10, 1989. My sister began her elementary school career last year, and can't stop talking about it. Lastly, although my thoughts, wishes, and entire vocabulary are in Spanish, I’m not too worried about my ignorance of the English language.

1995-1996. I’m now fluent in English, somewhere around this time my imagination and dreams were translated entirely into English, and will remain in that language, I don't mind the loss too much, I just find it peculiar.

Winter 1999. I’ve begun my application process into the district's magnet school; apparently my standardized test scores were barely good enough to make me a candidate.

Spring 1999. After an entrance exam and an interview I’ve been accepted into Mott Hall, next fall I’ll be entering the 5th grade in a new school.

Fall 2002. I lied to my lab supervisor at the local community college where I’ve started to do research in order to fulfill my community service requirement. I told him my parents vote in New York, it's a small lie, to be sure, I’m just not a good liar is all....

Winter 2003. I’ve been granted admission to Deerfield academy; I forgot to tell you that I’ve been taking extra courses outside of school in preparation for boarding school. I can't begin to assess how much my life will change after these four years, I haven't really thought much about it really, my conscience is clear knowing that this is a really good school.

September 2003. We rolled into Deerfield, Massachusetts, on a quiet and perfectly still fall morning. The beauty of this dainty town almost hurts you. Though I’m miles away from the world of “crosswalks,
concrete, and cranes,” I don't feel too out of place. My first year dorm - well actually house - John Williams, is older than our nation, and our dorm parent, Mr. Brush seems to be as well.

Summer 2006. During my first week at my first internship I received a call from the Prep for Prep intern coordinator. As expected, the digits I submitted as my social security number are not valid and so my stipend will be delayed. I was upset at first but I know that this experience will prove of value whether I’m paid or not. I was mainly startled, if you want to know the truth, I wasn't expecting any calls at the Brookdale Center of Gerontology, and it was pretty uncomfortable to talk on the phone about by legal status in front of my fellow intern.

Fall 2006. Due to my undocumented status my potential college list has been altered. Most of my initial liberal art colleges have been crossed off, thankfully the CEO of Prep for Prep is a trustee for Kenyon College, and my grades fit their admitted students profile so I should have no problem getting in. Either way, I wish I had more options, though I remain thankful for what I have.

Winter 2007. I applied early to Kenyon and was granted admission; at least my life is secure for four more years.

Spring 2007. I received a call from the international student's office today, I was told that I’ll be registered as a non-resident alien in the college files, seeing as applying for a student visa would require
me to return to Mexico, and there's no guarantee that I’ll be able to return, the risks are just too big.

Summer 2007. Our supervisor at the office of the public advocate came around asking for our social security number, I gave her the number the number my parents use to fill out their tax forms, thankfully the public advocate's office won't be paying me this summer, either way, I hope I didn't look too nervous.

Return from Winter Break, Jan. 11, 2008. I’m now 18 years old and getting through airport security won't be as easy without a government ID today an officer of the department of homeland security pulled me aside and had me searched. Thankfully, my mother couldn't see from the waiting are when they frisk-searched me, it was pretty humiliating but I tried to make small talk as my backpack was emptied, I kept on wanting to tell the officers that I posed a threat to no one and was just like any other college on their way back from the holidays.

Summer 2008. The CEO of New York Disaster Interfaith Services came by today with new employee agreements I had to sign. Though they're not paying me this summer I still had to fill in the social security line, I’m getting pretty tired of having to lie, but I don't want any problems.

Return from Spring break, March, 2009. Our Greyhound bus spontaneously stopped today in between Buffalo and Syracuse, two Department of Homeland Security officers boarded and I obviously lied to them, telling them I was a US citizen, I didn't have to show any documents, just uttering the words was sufficient. Unfortunately, the three young men, whom I gave some clothes to in Buffalo, weren't as lucky, were I courageous I would have stood up for them, and asked why they had to be hand cuffed as if they were criminals, or at least silenced the laughter I heard coming from the rear. But since I’m not, I just dug my head in the seat in front of me and recited the opening line to Psalm 91 repeatedly, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

End of School Year, May, 2009. Sophomore year just ended. Today just before leaving Buffalo, NY, a couple of Department of Homeland Security officers boarded the bus, when one asked if I was born in the US I looked at him straight in the eyes and said yes, its slightly discomforting to realize that I’ve been getting better at lying to them, but it helps to have so much rage, not at individuals, just at the entire system.

Spring 2009. Today, during a heated argument on affirmative action, I made the statement that I would not be present on the campus were it not for concerted efforts made to assist minority groups that were historically and institutionally prevented from attending college. One classmate looked at me and asked how did I feel taking someone else’s spot? I didn’t know how to respond and unable to justify my existence at Kenyon, stated that I loved it here, and couldn’t imagine my life without this opportunity. Looking back, who I don’t think anyone should or can justify their existence, too much goes into the existence of one human being, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Fall 2009. During the church offering today we were asked to fill out an organ donor application. I couldn’t help asking myself that if I died here in America would my heart, lungs and tissues be illegal too? And thought pleasantly on those lines from e.e. cummings: “when god lets my body be/ from each brave eye shall sprout a tree …. the purpled world will dance upon my lips which did sing.”

Late May, 2009. I’m volunteering at an immigrant rights group from the summer, and while discussing my responsibilities for the summer I was asked if I was a US citizen, I said no.

That's all I have to say for now, I omitted the events of September 11, and my father being laid-off repeatedly, my mother working grueling hours in a clothing factory, and my older sister’s frustration at our condition. I fear that I’ve painted a pretty miserable picture of my life, though these dates aren't entirely representative of my life, they are, however, "precious parts of my experience" and their significance play out continually throughout my narrative (Ellison). Also, it's not a good habit to continually lie to people; thankfully I’m slowly getting better at speaking the truth. I just wanted you to get a fuller understanding of my story, which is now your story.

Hassan tells me that some good must arise from living illegally in the United States, and I’m tempted to agree. Without romanticizing our condition too much, I can say that knowing everything I have ever worked for can be immediately taken away from me has made me appreciate what I have. I love the bond that unites all who live without proper documentation in the United States, our shared stories, emotions, and psychology. There’s also something to say about the narrative that we share with other aliens people, whether the Israelites living in Egypt or black slaves in America, and that our struggle is the next chapter in the long, but beautiful, struggle for civil, natural, and human rights.

– Marco, Student Blogger


I was born in Morelia, Michoacan 19 years ago and came to the U.S. at the age of 6. I've lived here ever since and graduated from high school last year, in 2009.

I was in the top 10% of my class and graduated with honors. I am now going into my second year of college and plan to earn my Associate's in Science with a Field of Study in Business. I then plan on transferring to a 4-year university and earn my Bachelor's in General Business. After obtaining my business degree I plan on going to Law School and earn my law degree to become an attorney. I've been looking into Immigration Law, but I'm not 100% sure yet. But of course none of this will even matter if something is not done by the government to benefit undocumented students like myself in order to have a path towards citizenship!

– Eddie, Student Blogger


My name is Nadia. I was brought to this country in the year 1995 when I was 10 years old.

My mom decided we had no future in Monterrey Mexico, and she decided to try her luck across the border. I grew up not being aware of the fact that I was undocumented, and I did my best to fit in. When I was about to graduate high school I learned of a program my school offered that would allow me to finish in 3 years instead of 4. When I went to my counselor to seek advice I was told that since I was Hispanic and a female that I would never be able to finish school in three years. He advised me to consider myself lucky if I did not end up being pregnant at the age of 16. I was devastated, I felt so angry that I decided to ignore his so called “advice” and pushed myself to finish.

I took night classes, plus my regular school hours and I worked to just make it through. I think my hard work paid off and I was able to graduate H.S. against all odds in May 2002. I was very touched by the movie Papers, I felt my life was displayed and I saw myself in every youth out there that is going through the same struggles I faced. I am writing you because I was fortunate enough to obtain 3 college degrees even though I am undocumented. I want others to know that if I could do it, they can too. Please know that even though my status has not changed I was able to face and overcome the giants in my life and being now married and with our first child on the way I am proud of all the youth that are out there facing their obstacles head on with such courage and strength.

Even though my future in this country is uncertain, and even though we might end up moving back to Mexico by the end of the year I feel a sense of accomplishment. I saw all the struggles and sacrifices my parents made for my siblings and me that I am forever thankful to them. Many people in this country may call us many names, but they were never able to break my spirit. My mom called it “el espíritu de superación” and that is exactly what we are doing. We are fighting to make something of ourselves and for a brighter future. Thanks for all you do and for making this film. I only pray and hope that it touches the life of those who see us as the enemy.

– Nadia, age 25, Student Blogger


So while Oregon youth scholars helps to get teens to go to college and prepare them for it, ďPapersĒ is trying to help them have the opportunity to go to college.

I’m so excited for this documentary to come out!!! I know it’s going to change the way some people think. It will also make a big difference in a lot of the major decisions important figures in this country will make. Another program that is also making a difference is the Oregon Young Scholars Program (OYSP). It helps teens from different ethic backgrounds have a little start in seeing what college will be like when they decide to go. Once teens attend the program they are less scared and more confident in going to college. When it’s time to attend college a lot of those teens can’t because they don’t have papers, which is what this documentary is trying to change. So while Oregon Young Scholars helps to get teens to go to college and prepare them for it, “Papers” is trying to help them have the opportunity to go to college. I’m part of OYSP and one of the youth producers from “Papers”. Both are a joy to be a part of. Who knew these two things could be linked. I am very proud of being in both!!

– Jasmine, age 14


One thing I wish people understood about me better is that I worked hard to get where I am.

I went through a lot of hard times to keep myself together. I take a lot of nonsense from people, yet they can’t break me. When people see me, they stereotype me because I look like a tough person, but I’m a really nice person to talk to.

One of my goals in life is to be able to be a good tattoo artist, from procedures to cleaning to building to sterilizing. One of my toughest goals that I want to accomplish is to get permanent residency. I don’t exactly know what else I want to be besides a tattoo artist but I also want to go to college some day and see what else I could study for. One of my personal goals is to have a girl by my side who will love me for who I am and not by how I look, one who will stick with me when times get rough, and one who will help me push myself towards my goals.

Ė Eric, age 19


To be able to reach my goal I have to work hard to earn some money to be able to pay for my school.

I would like to have a family with at least five kids and to have my kids go to college in the future.

One thing I would like people to understand better is that I am not that different from anyone in this world. I have feelings, hair, eyes, and blood going through my veins. My goal in life is to become a correctional officer and be able to have enough money to support my family. -Juan, age 19

Ė Juan, age 19


My biggest dream is to become a lawyer, so that I can make a change.

To be able to accomplish this I have to take classes in high school that will help me make this dream come true. I also need to be pushed to the limit so that I can go farther in life than I normally would. My parents have always wanted me to go farther than they went. It made me think about going to college.

Two of my best school subjects are math and language arts. Since I was younger I have always excelled in math and can learn math operations quickly. Language arts class is easy. My worst school subjects are social studies and science. Social studies class is hard because there are just so many dates to memorize and many important people to remember. Science has so many procedures in the experiments and all the words sound the same to me.

I think working hard in high school and going to college could change my life.

Ė Jasmine, age 14


ďA mind is a terrible thing to wasteĒ

To me this phrase means it is critical to study and work hard in order to have something good in life and to make something of yourself. Every person out there has something to offer that could help make the world a better place.
I am part of El Grupo Juvenil, the youth crew that is working on the documentary “Papers.” One of the things that we try and do is help people understand that over 2 million young minds are being wasted because of the current immigration laws.

65,000 undocumented youth graduate every year from high school without papers. They can’t work or drive and it is very difficult to go to college. All these minds can become important to people in this country. These young people are being prevented from doing something good with their minds.

By making this documentary we are trying to change people’s minds to pass the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act will allow undocumented youth to go to college and to earn a path to citizenship.

My mind is something that I don’t want to waste. I could have I wanted to, I could have gotten pregnant and dropped out of middle school. I don’t want to waste my mind because I know all the different things I can do. I’m here helping with this project making a difference for me and other youth.

Ė Jasmine, age 14


I feel identified with this movie. I'm glad someone is giving us a voice.

I was brought to the U.S. a month after my 13th birthday and completed Middle and High School here where I met a lot of wonderful friends who after graduation went on with their higher education pursuits. It's been six years since I graduated and have been caught in this Twilight Zone wishing every day I could too be allowed to go to college. I'm 23 now and I've never been more desperate or afraid of what my future will be. I fear I've been crippled for life without these papers. My hopes lie with Immigration reform and the Dream Act. I hope this movie raises awareness and kids who are just graduating or others like me who've been waiting for decades get a chance at the American Dream and a fair future. Love. -E

Ė E, youth blogger


Hi. My name is Rosa and I want to tell you about how I got involved in “Papers” the Movie and what I do. I also want to tell you about some of the events that we have had.

I got involved in “Papers” because of my brother. He presented the Producer, Rebecca, to me. When I met Rebecca, just by looking at her I could tell that we were going to have a blast with her. So then we started to help out and decided to do a movie about immigrants and the challenges that they face as they turn 18 without legal status.

When we come we help plan events or I help out writing thank you notes to people who make donations. I help out with everything. I don’t just have one main job, I have several jobs. It’s really fun because we have several events like the one that we had on October 18th to show the preview at the Hollywood Theater in Portland, Oregon. It was really fun. We got a lot of donations to go to anything we need like tapes for filming or money for when any of the crew members travel.

Ė Rosa, age 11, youth blogger


My name is Eric. I am strong but Iím also weak. Iím strong because no matter how hard this crooked pathway is to follow I still donít give up.

Why? Because there are things and people I care about, also because I’ve gained so much. But I still got a lot to give, and most importantly because of my sweetheart who I would hate to see cry if I was gone. I’m weak too because I get overwhelmed with the stress, the depression, the madness, the sadness, the fact that I can’t work, go to college, or drive which still really breaks me down at this point in time. What breaks me down more is not being able to work or drive because I hardly have money and I can’t get around anywhere especially to my girlfriend’s house. So all this hatred, anger, sadness, and stress makes me feel like my own worst enemy. I feel I must get out of the darkness and go into the light. People need to take the time to read between the lines and realize that we are all human. We share the same values, we make mistakes and regret them. We aren’t aliens, we are humans just trying to live our lives and provide for our families…

– Eric, age 19, youth blogger


My parents brought me here to America when I was 4 almost turning 5. I am almost 20 now and well its been rough for me.

The only thing keeping me going is my faith in God, that he will hear the cries of his people and give us our breakthrough for legalization. I am stuck in my life right now. I want to go to college but I can't. I want to get married to the love of my life, but Iím not going to because how am I supposed to provide? How am I going to take us places? I have no driver's license so I canít drive. Again the only thing keeping me going is my faith. My parents have suggested me going back to Mexico and I have thought about it. But it would be like starting a whole new life from scratch. I can speak a little Spanish, but not well enough to live in a country where itís the only thing spoken. I canít read or write it very well either. I know not one bit of history from Mexico. I donít remember any of my relatives so it would be like being moved to strange place, not knowing anyone, not knowing how to speak the language well, not knowing what to do in life. My goal here in America is to major in counseling and then become a youth pastor and help young people who feel lost and just donít feel any hope. I want to let them know that there is hope, that there is a loving father who loves them as they are and no matter what they have done. So yea, thatís my story. Thanks for reading it. Love and god bless and I will say this: si se puede.

– Juan, age 20, youth blogger