Analucia Lopezrevoredo says she escaped terrorism in Peru as a child. Look at her life in the United States today.
By Charlotte Prud’Homme
Analucia Lopezrevoredo, 31, remembers being 13 years old, sitting in the passenger seat while her father drove the car. Winding through their Orange County neighborhood, outside Los Angeles, she wondered how she’d ask her father for his support for her plans to travel to Ireland with her Girl Scout troop that summer.
Lopezrevoredo comes from a working-class family. She knew that she would have to work and save up money by mowing lawns, doing laundry and performing other odd jobs. She knew her father would want her to work to save up for the trip.
She didn’t know that to some, her existence was illegal.
Lopezrevoredo remembers how slowly her father pulled over their gray 1995 Cadillac Deville, turned to her, and broke the news that she couldn’t leave the country.
She remembers asking, “What’s going on? Why don’t you want me to go?”
“I remember I was like (pause) upset and he told me, basically just laid it out there, and was like ‘um, this is, um, you’re someone who’s undocumented.’”
“For the first time my dad wasn’t supportive of my idea, it was very strange and very incongruent with how I knew my dad to be.”
Due to her undocumented status, Lopezrevoredo would not travel to Ireland that summer with the rest of her Girl Scout troop.
Now an adult and having traveled to almost every continent, she recalled the day 18 years ago during a Facetime conversation from her San Francisco home.
Lopezrevoredo described her parents as very upright and honest; they always did what they were supposed to do.
“They were never people who would break the law,” she said. “So to be told that my existence was illegal, that my reality in the States was forbidden, that was very hard to wrap my head around.”
She remembers asking her father what this meant. She was shocked when he told her it meant that she couldn’t leave the country.
Suddenly she was able to make sense of a string of events that occurred during her lifetime.
The fact that she hadn’t been back to Peru since she was a young kid. The fact that, before her grandpa in Peru passed away, the family didn’t go to visit him. The fact that her grandmother would always visit them, but never the other way around.
“We were escaping terrorism in Peru, my dad could not return to Peru without getting shot. We came on a tourist visa and never returned,” she said.
It wasn’t just growing up in a poor, working-class family that had restrained her, but much more than that.
“We just weren’t allowed. If we left the country, we weren’t going to be allowed back in. It made a lot of sense and it made me, you know, ask bigger questions, like what else does this mean? This didn’t just mean that we couldn’t leave the States, but that essentially we would have to live in hiding.”
Undocumented status didn’t stop her
Today, Lopezrevoredo works as the Bay Area manager at OneTable, a Jewish community organization dedicated to linking community members in urban settings for Friday Shabbat dinners.
She also leads trips for a teen travel company called Rustic Pathways and birthright organizations.
Lopezrevoredo’s story is one of many young children brought into the United States illegally.
Born in Peru, she identifies as a “triple minority”: Jewish, Latina and a woman.
She has dedicated her life’s work of storytelling, social work, activism and exploration into ethnographies focusing on the immigrant and person-of-color experience, as well as conducting community-based participatory research projects through anti-oppressive frameworks.
She speaks fluent Spanish, English, Italian and Ladino.
That is something she said might not have been possible without her time spent in higher education.
In the current administration’s world of travel bans, deportations and fear of immigrants, Lopezrevoredo’s story illustrates the plight of undocumented students in higher education all over the country.
She has walked in their shoes and felt the weight on their shoulders.
Although she recalled having certain mentors and people she confided in, she said she would have never been able to be openly undocumented during her time in college, and she is thankful that student groups today have the experience of being openly undocumented while feeling safe.
For someone who was undocumented, she recalled having a different attitude than her other friends towards Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) when it first began in August 2012.
She never supported the program because she feared that the administration after President Obama’s wouldn’t be able to keep the promise of safeguarding private information collected through the program that included undocumented persons’ names, emails, addresses and phone numbers.
She said she is thankful she got her green card before DACA came out because she would have done the same thing as many others and given her name, for lack of other options.
She shared a thought close to her heart after living in San Francisco the past four years, that although not an exact comparison, being an undocumented person is like being a person diagnosed with HIV in San Francisco versus the rest of America.
While an individual may choose to share with friends and family, they most likely wouldn’t be out in the open about it unless they were in the right place with the right community supporting them.
“That’s kind of how it was being undocumented 10 years ago, it wasn’t something you would share with people. People coming out and opening up about their status nowadays is changing the game,” recalled Lopezrevoredo.
A shift in attitude towards undocumented students
Having earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and urban studies at Loyola Marymount University and her MA in organizational management from University of the Pacific, she understood well the life of undocumented students on the West Coast.
Lopezrevoredo remembers working on campus for housing her freshman year and Jamba Juice her sophomore year at Loyola Marymount. She had to “keep everything hush-hush,” she said. “I couldn’t tell that many of my teachers and didn’t have anyone to confide in. Because working with false papers is punishable by law, I had to be extremely selective who I told.”
She recalled “the first time I felt really scared, I remember thinking that my Jamba Juice boss was on to me because when I presented my papers to work, she was looking at me weird, asking me where I was born, and I was nervous about my unauthorized number.”
She hopes that undocumented students don’t get discouraged to participate in American higher education despite the new dangers of travel bans and deportations.
She recalled being a very high-achieving kid and thinking about college at a young age. Because she was used to financing a lot of her own life, she immediately started searching for grants and scholarships.
“As I sifted through applications, the first thing I would look at was the small, haunting print at the bottom, ‘must be a U.S. citizen and/or U.S. resident.’”
What’s next for undocumented youth
Christy Hayek, a legislative assistant, has managed cases of undocumented youth for Democratic Congressman Adam Smith in Seattle, who has advocated for the House of Representatives to pass legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship.
“Some people would grow up their whole life and then realize they never got their citizenship from their adoptive parents,” Hayek said. “And they run into problems later down the road through incarceration or issues with law enforcement.”
There are other issues.
Life in America isn’t a guarantee for many, let alone a college education.
For college students applying to schools and jobs while in school, paperwork and fear of deportation is a real issue.
Some campuses provide safe spaces for openly undocumented students, such as Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Students can be openly undocumented and have less to fear, knowing that they have the support of their school.
Sophomore Luis Gonzalez, a U.S. government major with a minor in education at Georgetown, organizes student activities that help the group UndocuHoyas stay active on campus, such as candlelight ceremonies that are also inclusive of other student minority groups.
How she got her citizenship
During her sophomore year of high school, Lopezrevoredo’s parents had finally reached their place on the waitlist. They became legal residents and petitioned for their four children to be as well.
Lopezrevoredo began applying to colleges a year later.
“I stopped myself from looking at certain schools on whether I could play water polo for a scholarship or even apply.”
By the time her senior year rolled around, and she still hadn’t heard back about becoming a resident, Lopezrevoredo reconsidered her plans several times, having difficult conversations and making compromises with her parents.
“I was a very high-achieving student. For me to go to community college or state school was not an option. I could be going to Harvard.”
She applied to University of California, Berkeley, and UC Irvine, as well as Loyola Marymount and the University of Southern California.
She said she only applied in state because her mom had told her to stay in state just in case anything were to ever happen.
She ended up choosing the school that had a good honors program and gave her the most money, Loyola Marymount. She recalled that she ended up going to a school that was different from what she expected. She described it as “really affluent, I didn’t come from the same background as the majority of other students,” she said.
At the end of her junior year, she got a letter from the government saying officials were finally ready to review her application.
Finally, she had obtained a green card.
“Once I got my green card, my life changed.”
Her first move was to study abroad in Ireland. Since then, she has been to 84 countries. Her new plan? Make that 100 within the next two years.
Featured photo provided by Analucia Lopezrevoredo