SAN ANTONIO – “It is difficult to talk about because it’s just not normal,” a 19-year-old immigrant News 4 WOAI is calling Alexander said. “It’s not something that I’m proud of doing.”
Alexander is one of 48,000 people living in Texas that have applied for deferred action, the new federal program to stay in the U.S. legally for two years to go to school and get a job.
Like all the others, Alexander flew under the radar for years. He told the inside story of how he did it and what his journey reveals about loopholes in Texas law.
“I came here when I was ten years old,” he said. “I moved on through elementary, middle school, high school.”
Alexander’s lived illegally in the U.S. for nine years.
"Nobody knows,” he said. “Nobody knew. I never talked about it."
His family didn’t sneak over the border – they just drove across one of the bridges.
"We said we were going to go visit and we just happened to stay,” Alexander said.
At first, they lived with family members who are legal citizens, and Alexander signed up for public school – without papers.
"They don't make a big deal if you don't have a social,” Alexander said. “They just make one up for you."
The process is actually more legitimate than that, according to immigration attorney Joe De Mott.
"The Texas education code provides that any student that lives within the bounds of the school district – when that child turns six years old he's entitled to go to the free public schools,” De Mott explained.
He says the law makes it possible for every child to get a good education – including kids like Alexander who don’t have a social security number.
"The school district says, okay, we will assign you a number to use in place of the social security number,” De Mott said.
And that assigned number was Alexander’s ticket through public school and later, college.
"Texas, even at the university and college level, does not look at your immigration status,” De Mott said.
The one door it couldn’t open was the one to the open road. Alexander couldn’t apply for a Texas drivers license. He may not live in Mexico, but he’s still a citizen there, so he had a relative still living there apply for him.
"That was bad because we had to forge it,” Alexander said. “I just took my picture to send it over there because I can't travel to Mexico. If not, I can't come back."
He said he finished the job by adding his fingerprint and laminating the ID.
He’s a cautious driver because he can’t afford to get caught: Alexander has a job at a major insurance company.
"I don't fill out a tax form,” he said. “I don't fill out a tax form at all. I don't fill out anything. I just go to work like any other person would and I get paid with a check."
Alexander said his boss took the risk because the teenager was applying for – and now has – a work permit. That means he no longer has to live in fear of deportation.
"My nightmares were that I was going to have to go back to Mexico,” Alexander said. “There's so much violence over there. There are so many opportunities here in the United States that I can go for."
Even with that work permit, Alexander is not a U.S. citizen. In two years, he will have to reapply for deferred action.
Since President Obama was reelected it’s likely the program will still be in place, but Alexander has no guarantees.