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The Life of an Undocumented High-School Senior

Feb 16, 2017 | 831 videos
Video by Leah Varjacques and Katherine Nagasawa

Ilse Cruz was brought into the United States by her mother when she was 4 years old, and has no memories of her native Mexico. She also doesn’t feel truly American—because she’s undocumented. “American culture and Mexican culture, they're both a part of who I am but I can't understand either one fully,” she says. As a high school senior, the discouraging realities of Cruz’s legal status have begun to set in: She’s wary of ever leaving the country to visit Mexico, she’s not sure if she can go to college, or apply for federal aid to make it possible. In this short documentary, Ilse, we follow along as Cruz navigates the process of attempting to be in the United States legally. “When you're not at least a resident, you don't get as much opportunities as you could,” she says. “I want to get past college, and knowing that one day my dreams would be cut short because I can't do something that I want to do, it just sucks.”

This film was produced by Leah Varjacques and Katherine Nagasawa. They previously collaborated on Beyond the Seal, a web documentary about banana farmers in Ecuador.

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Author: Nadine Ajaka

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.