Oscar's story: How deferred action on immigration is making a difference

USU grad's career plans back on track

Published: Monday, March 25 2013 6:50 p.m. MDT

Snowboarding instructor Oscar Marquina, center, laughs with instructors Adam Parslow and Kyle Hillman at Beaver Mountain Ski Resort in Logan Canyon Friday, March 22, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

LOGAN — The state's top economic development officials were gathered at a local eatery for a business presentation by a small group of Utah State University graduate students.

When the day's events concluded and Oscar Marquina's classmates left the restaurant, he stripped off his suit and tie and put on a work shirt. He was due in the kitchen for his shift washing dishes.

When you're undocumented, you become adept at moving between worlds, all the while attempting to stay below the radar, Marquina said in a recent interview.

That came to an end earlier this year when he was approved for an Obama administration initiative that grants qualifying undocumented teens and young adults who came to the United States as children legal authorization to work.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, does not confer legal immigration status but it means authorities will defer any removal actions for a two-year period. Applications can be renewed without limit under current guidelines.

It means Marquina can fully pursue the dreams that lured his family to the United States from Venezuela 15 years ago, "opportunity and being able to give your family something better," he said.

It means he can finally put his two university degrees — a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a master of business administration degree — to work.

"It's more relief than excitement. Now I can move forward. Let's see what happens," he said.

Working hard

Marge Seeholzer, who with her husband, Ted, owns Beaver Mountain ski resort, has known Marquina since he was an undergraduate student at USU. This winter, he's worked a couple of days a week teaching snowboarding.

She said she's pleased that Marquina finally has authorization to put his education to work in a business career.

Over the decade that the Smithfield couple has known Marquina, he's occasionally expressed his frustration about the roadblocks he's encountered with respect to his immigration status, she said.

"You could see he was a person trying to do everything right. It was such a long, endless process, and he wasn't getting anywhere. Why do they make it so hard when they're trying to do the right thing?" Seeholzer said.

Seeholzer said she hopes the deferred action program will be the turning point for Marquina. "He's got good people skills. He knows how to work, which I can't say for all young people," Seeholzer said. "He's had the initiative to take whatever job was available."

These days, Marquina's full-time job is hunting for a position that will utilize his background in financial trading and operation management. His passion is building and growing businesses.

Marquina has real-world experience running businesses, which includes owning and operating an ice cream truck in Logan for nine years.

"It worked out really well. I wouldn't have been able to afford college if not for that business," he said.

He has also owned and operated a business that sold handbags and women's accessories.

Success in Utah

Marquina, who graduated from high school in New Jersey, paid out-of-state tuition to attend USU until he could establish residency. Because he was an undocumened immigrant, he was not eligible for financial aid or scholarships so he worked odd jobs throughout college. He also maintained a B-average during his undergraduate years and a 3.6 grade-point average in graduate school.

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