Three Dreamers Talk About the Impact of Paying
Taxation, No Representation
|Karen Perez-Wilson (l-r), Alondra Quechol-Ramirez and Gilberto
Osuna-Leon are life-long Wisconsin residents who are forced to
pay out-of-state tuition at state universities.
It’s a kind of taxation and no representation. One set of students has lived in Wisconsin since
they were three-years old. They graduate from their hometown Wisconsin high schools. And they
have to pay out-of-state tuition for UW System universities.
On the other hand, there are students who graduate, let’s say, from a New York City high school
where they grew up. After high school, they move to Madison for a year and work after which
they can pay in-state tuition for UW System universities.
What’s the difference? The former group of students are DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals — students. Their parents are undocumented workers and they were brought here by
their parents at an early age. The only state they know is Wisconsin. The only country they know
is the United States.
The latter group are U.S. citizens. And although they have only lived in Wisconsin for a year,
they are entitled to a higher status than the students who have lived in Wisconsin for almost
their whole lives.
It’s taxation and no representation.
“My parents always worked in restaurants,” said Karen Perez-Wilson, a DACA student who just graduated from UW-Madison with majors in Legal Studies and
Chican@/Latin@ Studies. “My dad always worked in the kitchen. And my mom also did the same. She also did cleaning. My dad really wanted to get the furthest away
from the border as possible. So we ended up in Wisconsin. And we’ve been here ever since. He still works in the restaurant business. But he really did set the
foundation for us to come. From the very start, we just wanted to be together. So my mom went back for me from where I spent the first years of my life. When she
came back, she was seven months pregnant. We both came back and my little brother was on the way. My little brother was actually born in the States and I was the
only one outside. We’re a mixed-status family for sure.”
For the most part, DACA students become regular students in their communities, going to school, in some cases working and just having fun.
“My dad was also the first one to come here,” said Alondra Quechol-Ramirez, a student at UW-Milwaukee majoring in Psychology and Latin American, Caribbean and
U.S. Studies. “He crossed the border based on other people where he was determined to find a better opportunity for life in general. I like to think about it as an
economic refugee. When he came here, he found support. And then he came for us. That’s when my mom and sister first came with him. We’ve been living here ever
since, all of my dad’s side of the family. We’ve always been here and we grew up here in Madison. We’ve lived in almost every corner: the east side, north side,
south side and now on the west side. We’ve always rented. We pay property taxes even though we rent. That’s something that people don’t understand. As
immigrants, as people with mixed status families, we do pay taxes. We vote and obtain out education. It’s just not out there for people to see.”
While the stereotype exists out there of who a DACA student is supposed to be. But in reality, they come from around the world and many different economic
“My family first went to LA,” said Gilberto Osuna-Leon, a UW-Madison student who is majoring in Political Science with a pre-med track. “First of all, we weren’t
financially burdened in Mexico. We were actually pretty well off. My dad was a dentist and my mom worked in a bank. But my older brother always wanted to come to
America to see the kinds of opportunities that would be here. We all kind of jumped on the bandwagon with him and we applied for a visa. We got It and flew over. We
first went to LA, but my dad couldn’t work as a dentist here, obviously because his credentials weren’t recognized. He had to find cleaning jobs and so did my mom.
We couldn’t afford what it took to live in LA, so my mom moved to Madison and we just kind of followed her here.”
While Quechol-Ramirez and Osuna-Leon did not work until they became DACA students, Perez-Wilson has worked hard all of her life.
“I wasn’t a typical teenager because I started working way before typical U.S. teenagers would start working,” Perez-Wilson said. “I think I started working at the end
seventh grade. I started off every Friday and I kept that job because at that time, we didn’t have programs like DACA, so I couldn’t really work or be on the payroll. So
I just had to work any jobs I could do where I was paid under the table. My dad worked in restaurants. I would help out in restaurants whenever I could. My dad has
been working at the same job for many, many years. So it was easy for me to help out at the restaurant and get a little bit of money here and there. Babysitting too was
a big source of income for me. I worked a lot. And then in college — I graduated this past weekend — getting myself through school, I worked a lot, sometimes up to
five jobs at a time trying to just get by. Growing up, I had a lot of jobs.”