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My name is Jesus Loya and I’m 29 years old and I am from Salt Lake City, Utah. I graduated with honors from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and also earned my M.B.A. and a Masters in Electrical & Computer Engineering. I now manage a network of 74 private investors who build companies that create new jobs in Utah. I am also a single father, caring for my 8-year-old son, Junior—an American citizen.
My American story is one of hard work and perseverance, but it is not unique.
I want to share with you what it was like to navigate the complex world of both living in the shadows and being afforded opportunities to fulfill my dreams. I feel compelled to share it on behalf of the millions of aspiring young Americans, like me, who want to give back to the only country they know and love. I came to United States from Mexico as a child. I was immediately put in a lower grade at my school because I could not speak English. While some may have viewed this as a step backward, I took this as a challenge, and three months later was able to skip a grade. I worked hard and excelled at Park City High School, where I was able to graduate by the age of 16 while working two jobs. I love the United States. So much, that after high school I applied to serve in the Marines.
I’ll never forget the day my dreams of serving my country were shattered when I picked up the phone to hear a recruitment officer tell me that I could not serve because I did not have a valid social security number. It was only then, that I fully understood what it meant to be undocumented in the United States. Unable to serve my country or afford college, I felt completely powerless in determining my future.
In 2002 the Utah state legislature passed HB144, which allowed students like me to be eligible for in-state tuition at Utah public universities. I enrolled in the University of Utah and pursued my dream of becoming an engineer. Junior was born while I was studying and I dropped out of college for a semester to care for him financially. But, as a young father I knew I wanted a better future for him—so I reenrolled and finished my Electrical Engineering degree with honors in 2010.
That same year I watched with great anticipation and hope as the United States Congress debated my future. I was heartbroken when the Dream Act did not pass. But I did not let it stop me. I went back to school and received my advanced STEM degree and M.B.A.
I now work with a team of angel investors in Utah. I love what I do. Everyday I facilitate the hopes and dreams of entrepreneurs who create private sector jobs and grow the Utah economy. One company I’m particularly proud of has hired 17 people in the last 18 months and plans to add another 9 jobs by the end of the year. I know that what I’m doing is giving back to the state and country that has given me so much.
I consider myself an American in everyway except on paper. I have two STEM degrees, I pay taxes, my son and sister are Americans, my parents and other sisters have their green cards.
While I currently have work authorization, my future is still unclear because of an outdated and backlogged immigration system.
I am sharing my story because I can no longer sit on the sidelines. In Utah I am an active volunteer for FWD.us to make sure that stories like mine are told and people continue to tell Congress that Americans are ready for them to finally fix our broken immigration system once and for all. Whether it’s in the eyes of my eight-year-old son, or in the business plan of an entrepreneur I’m advising—America is full of hope and promise. And I believe that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to solidify this promise.
I hope you’ll join us at FWD.us to make sure that it happens.