Here in Southern California, thousands of millennials are experiencing the "American Dream" through the lens of immigration.
One of them is Carol Romo. Her life changed when officers from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement knocked on the door early one morning in 2006, just as Carol was getting ready for water polo practice.
The agents came for her father, Nicholas who was taken away, leaving Carol, her mother and her siblings. Soon, they would all move back to Mexico, leaving Carol with some tough choices.
"I pleaded to stay [in the U.S.] It was, I think one, of the toughest decisions I've made. I had to decide either my future or I tag along and who knows what I'll end up doing in Mexico? My mom along with my grandparents were very hesitant because I was only 16. And I told her that I was halfway through high school, to let me stay, let me finish and I wanted to get a career."
With her parent's blessing, Carol remained in the U.S. and stayed with an aunt and uncle through the rest of high school and a few years afterward. Life after her family left was hard for Carol, she quit water polo and clubs and began the search for a job.
"It was not what I wanted but I had to. I mean, there was no one else that was going to give me money or support me financially so I had to get it myself. Luckily, my aunt, she was very kind enough for me to stay with them. It wasn't until a year or so after I started working that she was like 'oh Carol, you need to start being responsible and paying rent.' So the little money I got was, half of it was for paying rent and half of it was for my expenses."
Carol went on to attend college and graduate with her bachelor's in Health science. Today, she's the Manager of Clinical Operations at North Orange County Regional Health Foundation. Before she was separated from her family at the age of 16, Carol's parents were fighting for their residency:
"They had their work permits, so they were working legally. They were paying taxes, that's how they were able to purchase a home. The judge told my parents, if you have siblings who live in Mexico and they're able to live with their families and carry on a normal life, so can you. And he denied the case. We appealed, my parents tried to fight back and ask 'Why, we've been in the U.S. for over 20 years.' they still denied the case. We ask ourselves why...until now my mom still questions herself, why did it happen? Why was it us?"
Carol is now 25 years old and currently in the process of filing for her parents to come back to the United States after a decade apart.
To hear all of Carol's story, click the blue play button above.