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A college student’s take on overcoming obstacles for family

Naomi De La Rosa was nine when her mother was deported from the U.S., after authorities learned she had entered the country illegally a decade earlier. Though she was thrust into a caregiver role for her younger brother and eventually her elderly father, De La Rosa still managed to excel at school. Now a freshman at the University of Arizona, she shares her brief but spectacular take on family.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We continue our look now at immigration in tonight's Brief But Spectacular.

    Naomi De La Rosa was a child when her mother was deported for illegally entering the U.S. Now an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Arizona, De La Rosa shares her family's story.

  • Naomi De La Rosa:

    When my mom got deported, I was 9 years old.

    She crossed, I think, in the 1990s. She was always working daily at the motels, cleaning rooms and everything, and she would get home like around 6:00 in the afternoon, and she would still have to clean and cook and stuff.

    She's about to finish her 10-year sentence next October in 2019. Ever since my mom got deported, it was really tough. I had to be the mom figure. I had to be the student, the best friend, the sister, like, everything.

    With my little brother, he was only 4 at that time and he would cry every night for my mom. When I was 9, I did get depression, but not really anxiety, more depression, because I would cry every night, and especially with Bobby. I was sleep-hugging him and stuff. And it was bad.

    But then, at school, I would always have a smile on my face, because I didn't want people to like ask, oh, what's wrong? And then me having to cry again over my mom and tell them the same story over and over again.

    My father is already 86. I remember, when I was small, he would take me to McDonald's. And, like, he would get me the little toys and everything. But now I'm like — we switched roles, because he was like my caregiver, and now I'm his caregiver.

    Oh, my God, my graduation, it was so much fun. OK, so I took pictures with my best friend, Damian. Then we went out to eat with my family. I was going to surprise my dad. He was in the bathroom washing his hands, so he can eat his chicken nuggets or whatever.

    My dad was being brought down the hallway with my little brother. And I was like there waiting at the door. I popped up and with my diploma and stuff, and then my dad started crying, and then I was crying. He's like, oh, my God, I'm so proud of you, but like in Spanish.

    He was like, oh, my God. (SPEAKING SPANISH)

    And I was like, I did it for you. But, yes, it was a memorable night.

    What made it so emotional was that, many people, when their families are separated, they, like — they get into depression and they lose, like, their mentalities and, oh, I need to keep up with this stuff. Oh, I need to do this. Oh, I need to do that.

    And for me, I surpassed all those obstacles and I graduated. And now I got a full ride to the U. of A. So it's like, oh, my God, I did it. It's nice.

  • Question:

    Who did you do it for?

  • Naomi De La Rosa:

    My mom and my dad. I did it for them.

    My name is Naomi De La Rosa, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on family.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what an inspiration.

  • And an update:

    Naomi's father passed away after this interview was recorded.

    Tonight's piece was produced with help from reporter Perla Trevizo, who covers border and immigration issues for The Arizona Daily Star.

    You can watch her take on our Web site.

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