Undocumented immigrant to be first to graduate from VA law school

Updated: Nov. 21, 2017 at 6:54 PM EST
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WILLIAMSBURG, VA (WWBT) - A Virginia student is one of thousands worried they will be deported from the only home they have known. Gloria Oduyoye was brought to the United States as a child and protected under DACA - until President Trump repealed it.

She's fighting to stay, as are two northern Virginia men who filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Trump administration.

Oduyoye is Virginia's first known undocumented immigrant on track to graduate from law school at William & Mary.

"My heritage is Nigerian, so my that's where my family is originally from," she said.

The 25-year-old at William and Mary Law School is not just trying to pass the bar, she's also fighting to save the only life she's ever known. Gloria is an undocumented immigrant, also known as a Dreamer.

"People were definitely surprised," she said. "A lot of people didn't believe me like, 'You're an immigrant?' You're so American."

Gloria came to the U.S. when she was one year old. She says her dad had a student visa, the family had visitor visas.

Hardship soon followed, when her dad got sick.

"He couldn't continue with his residency and eventually fell out of status, and the rest of the family followed," says Oduyoye.

The legal struggle was expensive and emotionally draining.

"We were taken advantage by lawyers. Had our money stolen. Had lawyers skip out on us. Had lawyers miss deadlines."

The family became undocumented, but despite the struggles, Gloria went to college and got scholarships to help with the cost.

Then in 2012, she was granted DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It meant protection from deportation and the ability to work, get a driver's license and go to school. She also started talking about her immigration status with others.

"I think I have a compelling story, and it's a moral question, a moral duty to share," she said. "And finally, I just like to give hope."

It's believed Oduyoye will be the first undocumented immigrant to graduate from law school in Virginia, but under the Trump administration, DACA will end.

She is taking her story to Capitol Hill, hoping members of Congress will pass a bipartisan Dream Act. Oduyoye even supports other acts proposed by both sides which require rigorous background checks and a commitment to working, studying or serving the U.S.

She says the solution is a compromise.

"I'm a real person who works, really works hard and loves my country," says Oduyoye. "It's the only country that I know, and hopefully I can win some hearts and minds."

It's estimated that thousands of former DACA recipients a month are losing their protections. Oduyoye says if there is a path to citizenship for her, she would take it in a heartbeat.


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