When Arianna Salgado was a sophomore in high school, she started thinking about her status as an undocumented immigrant and what that would mean for her in terms of higher education opportunities.
Since Salgado didn't have the usual avenues available to other high school students such as federal student loans ( FAFSA ), she had to find resources and information specific to undocumented people. This meant sharing her status as an undocumented person with outsiders. She chose to tell her close friends at first since she knew they would be supportive.
"That really helped because if I needed to speak to a school official they would come with me and give me that support," said Salgado. "What also helped was my mom started getting involved in organizing with a local group and that made me more comfortable about sharing my status because I knew that my family, friends and community would be there to support me."
Due to her research efforts, Salgado was able to secure an academic scholarship from Dominican University as well as a scholarship from a private donor and small scholarships throughout her four years as a student at Dominican. The main scholarship and private donor scholarship covered $20,000/year, however; that didn't cover the cost of attending Dominican, so she worked as a babysitter to pay for the rest of her tuition. By her senior year, that amounted to $10,000 that she had to pay out-of-pocket.
Salgado, who identifies as queer, was born in Morales, Mexico, in 1992 and lived there for six years before coming to the U. S. with her mom and younger brother. She grew up in Melrose Park, Illinois and graduated from Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy.
"My biological father was abusive toward my mom so she decided she had to leave Mexico to provide us with a better life," said Salgado. "People don't realize the struggles that my mom and others go through in order to survive and get us to the U. S. It wasn't an easy decision."
Salgado grew up close to Secure Communities, which was a program that allowed for collaboration between the police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE ).
"If a person is undocumented and they get pulled over by the police, when they get booked their fingerprints are shared with the FBI and ICE. If ICE decides to do so they will place a hold on the person and the person can then be picked up and detained/ deported," said Salgado. "Melrose Park is a part of Cook County but we lived really close to DuPage County which was a Secured Communities county. That meant that I would constantly hear of people being pulled over and placed in proceedings because of the program.
"Even though Cook County wasn't a Secure Community that doesn't mean it didn't happen in Cook County. Chicago prides itself as a sanctuary status city for undocumented immigrants but the reality is undocumented immigrants are still being detained in Chicago. There was and still is a constant threat of deportation that we face as a family and community and that's why I got involved with immigrant rights issues while still in high school."
Salgado is currently involved with Organized Communities Against Deportation and Brown and Proud Press. She is also a part of the #Not1More campaign.
"When I started college, I became more involved with what's happening in Chicago in the areas of anti-deportation and anti-detention work," said Salgado. "I work with families who are facing detention and deportation through public campaigns. I've also been more involved with highlighting the intersections of being queer and undocumented."
Salgado was one of the many undocumented people to be eligible for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals ( DACA ) program. She applied for and was given DACA benefits so that meant she was able to get a work permit, state ID and a Social Security Number ( SSN ).
"I don't have a drivers license, but that's just because I don't know how to drive, but I plan on learning so I can get my license," said Salgado. "Before receiving my state ID, I used my consulate card from the Mexican consulate, but many places wouldn't recognize that as a valid ID and would turn me away. I have so many more resources that I didn't have before DACA. With DACA protections, I'll be able to leave the country and visit my extended family in Mexico."
Due to her DACA benefits, Salgado was able to work at Dominican in certain departments that didn't receive federal money. This meant she wouldn't have to rely on babysitting money alone to help pay her tuition. She still wasn't able to do any work study programs or receive money from a federal program even with a SSN and work permit so to supplement her income she looked outside of the college for work.
That led Salgado to her current job as a legal assistant at the Law Offices of Mony Ruiz Velasco, an immigration law firm. She's been with the firm since last May.
This past spring, Salgado graduated from Dominican University with a degree in history. She also studied criminology.
"Originally I wanted to get my Master's degree in teaching so I could teach high school history, but now that I've been working at the law firm, I'm considering going to law school," said Salgado. "I'm still unsure of what my next step will be academically so I'm taking a break from school to do the research and figure out funding before I enter graduate school."
This past spring, Salgado participated on a panel focused on the intersection between LGBTQ and immigrant rights with Windy City Times Publisher Tracy Baim and attorney and activist Nebula Li following a screening of the film Limited Partnership.
"It was great to be on the panel discussing the problems that undocumented, queer immigrants face trying to stay in the country legally and avoid deportation," said Salgado.
When not working, going to school or organizing, Salgado enjoys watching funny TV shows, hanging out with friends, going dancing and running.
"It's important to acknowledge all members of our community and support each other the best way we can," said Salgado. "The LGBTQ community includes undocumented people and people with disabilities, and it's imperative for us to be inclusive of those communities when thinking about LGBTQ issues."
Salgado can be found on twitter at www.twitter.com/ariannabeee .