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Cristian Fertino receives his Citizenship with his proud father Jose Fertino

Immigrant Stories - How DACA Changed a Life

Nov 4, 2019
by Christopher Kerosky, Kerosky, Purves & Bogue, LLP, Sonoma County Human Rights Commissioner

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On November 12th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the DACA law; the Justices’ decision will determine whether approximately 800,000 immigrants lose their status.

That same day, our local PBS-TV station, KRCB, will broadcast for the first time the story of one former DACA-recipient,Cristian Fertino – the latest production ofMy American Dreams, our locally-based non-profit that tells inspiring stories of immigrants.

Cristian Fertino is an inspiring example of how DACA can change a life.

His Immigrant Story. 

Cris came to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico in 1996 with his mother and brother. He was 5 years old. His father had come the year before. Soon after, his sister Jennifer and his brother Christopher were born in Santa Rosa as U.S. citizens.

“I grew up like any American child, speaking English and attending American schools. It was not until I was in my mid-teens that I began to experience the consequences of being undocumented,” Cris relates. “Unlike most of my high school friends, I could not apply for a driver's license, financial aid for college, or a social security number. I began to live in constant fear of ICE and deportation. I felt like a prisoner in the land of the free.”

Those consequences became more real to the family when Cristian’s mother was deported to Mexico in 2009.“I didn't even get to say goodbye to her. We weren't even sure where she was for a while because immigration just drops you off across the border, on the Mexico side, and that's it.” Ten years later, his mother is still living in Mexico, unable to return to her family here.

“That left my siblings, who were still very young, without a mother. So my dad became a single father, of four kids, and so my brother Fernando and I had to step up to the plate and we had to assume some of the responsibilities, such as guiding them, providing them with advice, taking them to school, picking them up, caring after them.” This is a common role of immigrant kids growing up here.

Later Cristian’s dad, Jose Fertino, was denied his green card in Mexico, and for almost a year, Cris and his siblings were without any parent. “At that point, my teen-age siblings were here without either parent, so my brother and I had to take them in, and we provided food, shelter, transportation for them--we became not just siblings but parents to them. Because they needed us and that's what family is. That's what family does.”

DACA and later citizenship.

Cristian graduated second in his high school class in 2008 and four years later, he graduated with honors from UC Riverside. “After college, I could not apply for a job related to my bachelor's degree because I had no work permit and no social security number. Instead, I worked as a gardener and assisted my dad with painting houses, to make ends meet.”

Then, in 2013, Cristian got his temporary status through DACA. “For the first time, I felt welcomed in the country I had called home for over 16 years. No amount of words could ever describe the emotions I felt the first time I held my work permit. It was my name and photo on those documents. It felt surreal. My dreams no longer had to be dreams because now I could make them a reality. I now possessed the tools needed to thrive and succeed.”

Earlier this year, Cristian became a U.S. citizen himself in a ceremony. His proud father shared that moment with him.

Since 2013, Cristian has worked with our Sonoma County immigrant community, helping families with their own immigration procedures. His next goal is to go to law school and one day practice immigration law. “I feel that once I get my law degree, I'll be able to go even further, with my abilities to help those who are most vulnerable in these communities.”

Debut PBS Broadcast of Cristian’s Film.

Cristian’s story can be seen on KRCB on November 12th.

Later the video will be shared with the entire PBS network and shown on stations throughout the country.

You can also watch 8 other profiles of DACA recipients from Sonoma County in KRCB’s re-broadcast this month ofThe Only Home I Know, a 30-minute film by My American Dreams.

You can also see the film on YouTube and at www.MyAmericanDreams.org.

Cristian’s story can be seen on KRCB on November 12th.

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