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One in a Million: 'Knowing I was different from my classmates, I felt alone'




Alma de Jesus, 34, a mother of two in her Los Angeles home. She was brought to L.A. when she was 6 years old and grew up undocumented.
Alma de Jesus, 34, a mother of two in her Los Angeles home. She was brought to L.A. when she was 6 years old and grew up undocumented.
Dorian Merina / KPCC

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Amid the debate over immigration policy, people in the U.S. who are currently living – or who have recently lived – without legal status face uncertainty with potentially life-changing consequences.

Here in Southern California, an estimated one million undocumented people call the region home. Their presence helps to shape many aspects of life, from the economy to culture, schools to politics.

Alma de Jesus, 34, a mother of two, is one of them.

Click on the blue player above to hear her full story. Here are some highlights:

On first being brought to Los Angeles as a 6-year-old by her parents from Mexico:

"The first experience in school was very scary for me. English was the language that was mostly spoken, so I felt like they were taking me away from my mom. It was a time of confusion, learning a new term, which was undocumented, knowing that I was different from some of my classmates. I felt alone."

On learning about why her parents moved their family north:

"They came here with a dream. They believe in the American dream. They wanted to give their children a better life. They didn't come here to take someone's job. They've been doing the jobs that other people don't want to do, like working in sweatshops, making clothes. Like my uncles who work in the farms, picking vegetables, who's going to do those jobs? We need immigrants to do it so it's about thinking about your situation, not just individually, but how you will affect all these other people."

On what she tells her two young children and her parents when they ask about the new White House administration:

"No one knows what's going to happen right now. I don't want to tell them it's going to be okay because I don't know if it's going to be okay. So it's more how to prepare my family, my community and myself."

This is part of an occasional series from Take Two, called One in a Million, exploring the stories of Southern California's undocumented community, one voice at a time.