This letter features reporting from  “Children, the "Passport" of Migrants to Achieve the American Dream” by Perla Trevizo, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

Dear Senator Kelly,

You’re a child living in a small village in Guatemala. There is not much there, and you know that your parents have been struggling for a while. The pandemic high has settled and the small amount of money your family has is dwindling. Fast. You had to drop out of school to take care of your siblings and the situation is getting dire. Suddenly, you notice friends leaving and not coming back the next day. Or the next. Or the next. Then your parents tell you that you’re leaving too: To a better place—a place where they can find jobs, you can have a good education, and your family can have stability! It sounds like a dream! Until you get right near the edge.

You’re denied access.

I, Carolina Leon, am telling the story about  the quality of life for impoverished immigrants. In the article “Children, the ‘Passport’ of Migrants to Achieve the American Dream,” author Perla Trevizo describes how people who are trying to get into the U.S. are using children to stay longer and get more leniency from the government. This story is happening to real people. "'The whole argument that you can increase the punishments against the migrant, force them to cross the desert, and that this will somehow prevent people from coming,' says [Elizabeth] Oglesby, [professor of Latin American studies at the University of Arizona]. 'That doesn't deter people from migrating, it just redirects that migration and changes its character.'"

This is just one of the many quotes that highlight the distress of these immigrants. People and children who want more or better education, safety, jobs, and opportunities are stopped by the massive amount of paperwork, time, and money to do so. Families leave their hometowns and travel for hundreds or thousands of miles to get a small cut of the “American dream.”  These are people who dream of the American dream but are not considered to be American enough to dream it. 

This is a big issue in Arizona because many of the people trying to escape from similar situations are being pushed further and further. Both of my parents come from Mexico and I can’t imagine if they had to face any of this. This issue is important to our community because many migrants  live here and there are people whose desperation is growing as they lose more and more of what they have left. The amount of money migrants spend, money they don't have, just further pulls them into bankruptcy. “...Each failure increas[es] debt and despair,” writes Trevizo. Do only the wealthy get the privilege to survive?

I think that we should offer better care to those who want to enter our country, and even better relations and provide for other countries. These people walk thousands of miles, pay thousands of dollars, and wait for thousands of hours to get into America. Doesn’t that show more American pride than anything?

If we make the immigration process easier to file and safer to accomplish, we wouldn’t have to worry as much about illegal immigration. There would be more people willing to work and contribute to the economy.

No matter where people are born, no matter their status, their race, culture, or wealth, they are human. They deserve the necessities of survival, and if we can provide that, shouldn’t we? Please consider making changes to the filing process. Thank you for your service and for taking the time to read this letter.


Carolina Leon

Headshot for Carolina Leon. In the background, there are red flowers.

Carolina Leon is an eighth-grader from Mountain Trail Middle School in Phoenix, AZ. Carolina is passionate about the well-being of those trying to better their situation and helping those in need. She is very thankful for her amazing parents and wonderful teachers for always being there for her and helping her through her writing journey. When not in school or working on homework, Carolina likes to indulge in all forms of the arts, such as writing, drawing, animating, and music.

Read more winning entries from the 2021 Local Letters for Global Change contest!