Deported but Determined: DREAMer Raises Funds for London Grad School

Nancy Landa was deported to Mexico--but that's not stopping her from achieving her dream to advocate for international migrants.

By Aura Bogado Aug 14, 2013

Nancy Landa arrived in the U.S. with her parents when she was 9 years old. She graduated high school with honors and was in the top three percent of her graduating class. Because she didn’t have a greencard she worked to pay for college. She also rode the bus for four hours round-trip each school day from her South Los Angeles home in South Los Angeles to California State University at Northridge. Before graduating with honors with a BS in information systems degree, she was active on campus and was even class president. 

When Landa started college in 1998, there was no such thing as the DREAM Act, which would allow certain people who arrived to the U.S. as minors a pathway to citizenship. Although some version of the DREAM Act has existed in Congress for more than 10 years, it has never been passed–yet those people who might benefit from the legislation have claimed the word DREAMer for themselves. Since the DREAM Act was introduced during the time she was in college, Landa considers herself a first generation DREAMer. She graduated in 2004, and worked at Los Angeles area non-profits and continued to try to adjust her immigration status.

Landa says that because a notary missed key deadlines on their political asylum applications her whole family became ineligible for authorization to remain in the U.S. She hoped that immigration reform would provide some kind of relief, but, just like the DREAM Act, it never came about. Immigration officials ordered the entire family’s removal.

Landa was deported from the only real home she ever knew on September 1, 2009; her mother, father and brother were deported one month later. None of the four were high priority immigrants who were accused of any crimes. As one of the two million immigrants deported under the Obama administration, says she identifies with the Dream 9, and even signed a letter urging the president to release them from detention."[I] thought it was important to share a deportee’s perspective on Dream 9," she explains.

Landa tried to continue her education in Mexico, but her country of birth doesn’t recognize her degree. So she got creative. She decided that if the United States and Mexico wouldn’t support her ambition to earn another degree, she would look for a third country that would. Her perseverance paid off, because she was accepted to the Masters in Global Migration program at the University College London Department of Geography.

But there’s a glitch. Although Landa has worked to cover almost all her costs to begin her studies this fall, she’s about $8,000 short. So she’s started a fundraising effort to help get her to London to finally get that master’s degree. "I arrive to London on September 20 so that doesn’t give me a lot of time," she says by phone from Tijuana, Mexico. 

Once she graduates, Landa hopes to find a job working on international migration issues–something it seems she’s a bit of an expert on, already. "I want to work for a non-profit, an international group like the UN, or any non-governmental organization related to refugees or migrants. I’d like to help," she says.