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“For me, it’s definitely not having to worry about who I can tell my secret to, who I can openly speak to about this,” she said. “I feel more happy and I feel more light.”
Now in her first job, she takes pride in seeing her nameplate affixed to her cubicle wall. When she first started, she asked to see her paycheck instead of having it deposited directly into her bank account. “I wanted to see it, feel it and take it to the bank, to cash my first check,” she said.
She’s applying for a credit card — another first — and is the proud owner of a learner’s permit, which looks like a driver’s license, except for the “status check 11-18-2014” label.
It’s been years since lawmakers focused so much attention on fixing the nation’s immigration system.
“The political winds are blowing in very different directions in 2013 than they were blowing in 2011,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, which along with the Brookings Institution, recently conducted a major survey of American public opinion on immigration policy issues.
Diversity of opinions
While immigration changes are in the works at both the state and national level, public opinion polls show Americans remain conflicted on the subject. Among the findings of the PRRI/Brookings survey of nearly 4,500 American adults, 61 percent favored the idea of granting legal status to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, while 34 percent opposed the idea. But the poll also revealed that Americans rank immigration reform only sixth out of seven issues as the highest priority for Congress and the president.
On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released new poll results showing that Americans across all demographic and political groups say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements to stay in the country legally. But there are mixed views on whether they should be eligible for citizenship.
In a recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, 64 percent of respondents said the government should create a path to citizenship for those already here, but should also beef up border enforcement to stop illegal immigration.
For Thalia Estrada, an official work permit has allowed her to seek jobs in the open for the first time.
The 17-year-old senior at Central High School in St. Paul plans to earn money for college and also for prom.
On a frigid afternoon recently, she crisscrossed Grand Avenue in St. Paul, going from store to store to ask about part-time jobs. She picked up a few applications and handed them to her mother, who trailed behind her daughter’s purposeful walk.
“It’s kind of hard because usually employers don’t really look at your grades,” explained Estrada. “It’s more your experience, and since I don’t have much experience it’s hard to get a job.”
Originally from Peru, Estrada was brought to the United States when she was a small child. Watching her daughter struggle to land a job makes Estrada’s mother’s heart ache. “Sometimes I’m feeling so guilty because I think maybe it wasn’t a good decision to be here,” she said. “But at the same time, I feel it is better here. There are better jobs, better schools, better opportunities for them.”
Moments later, Estrada emerged from the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, a triumphant smile on her face and yet another application in hand. “Mom!” she cried. “They’re hiring!”
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488
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