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

Attending college in Utah was a financial decision. In-state tuition in New Jersey, where he, his mother and brother were living with his uncle, was higher than out-of-state tuition at USU. He knew nothing about Utah except that he had some relatives in Salt Lake City.

The first time he visited the campus was the day he moved into the dorms as a freshman. "It was like culture shock," he recalls.

Marquina, now 30, was one of the early applicants in Utah for deferred action. He's older than most applicants and differs from most because he has an advanced college degree.

He was perfectly suited for President Obama's program, according to Alyssa Williams, immigration attorney for Catholic Community Services, who helped him apply.

"The deferred action program, it was his magical savior. He totally qualified for it. It's exactly what they intended by sweeping him in because they really wanted someone who had gone to school and didn't have any sort of record that would make him ineligible for the program.

"He was going to be able to legalize at some point some way but he didn't have it right now. He obviously was brought to the United States by his mom when he was a young guy," Williams said.

Living with uncertainty

Marquina said last year he was reasonably sure that Obama would be re-elected, which meant the program would remain in effect for the duration of the president's second term. While Marquina could continue to support himself with odd jobs, he needed a work-authorization card to launch his career and, hopefully, normalize his immigration status.

"With the political uncertainty, you had to think twice (about applying). What could happen if the executive order expired?" Marquina said.

"At the same time, I had been given no other choice. It was the only road forward. You take whatever opportunity is given to you. You take what is given to you now."

Marquina takes satisfaction in meeting his educational goals, running profitable businesses and excelling in graduate school to the point he was recruited by three companies, including one Fortune 500 company. Those opportunities slipped through his fingers because he was not authorized to work.

This past week Marquina had a job interview with a national retail chain for a position in its corporate accounting department. Next week, he will travel to New Mexico for a conference, and hopefully more job interviews.

"I'm hoping to get that break," he said.

Debbie Tarboton, director of Beaver Mountain's ski school, who is from South Africa and has endured the grind of the legal immigration process herself, acknowledged, "It's been a long wait for him."

But she's optimistic for Marquina because he's industrious and entrepreneurial.

"The thing about Oscar is, he's a doer." One day, while driving around Logan, she caught a glimpse of an ice cream truck. "Oscar was in the ice cream van working. Another time, I took my child to play soccer, and Oscar was reffing the game," she said.

Catholic Community Services attorneys are likewise hoping that a prospective employer would consider sponsoring Marquina for a visa. "Now that he's legally employable, he's more attractive to an employer that might need his particular skill set and could sponsor him," Williams said.

Having a work authorization card, Marquina said, "feels great."

"I'm excited and relieved. At the same time there is anxiety. I wonder if I will get these types of opportunities again," he said.

On the other hand, Marquina said he has the confidence of knowing he can make the best of whatever comes his way.

It's why he marshaled on with his education when the end game was uncertain. It's why he's helping to organize a Utah chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, noting their underrepresentation in industry and higher education.

Everyone faces uncertainty in life, Marquina said.

"The only thing you can do is prepare yourself now for whatever opportunity comes," he said.

"Yes, it is very hard, hard emotionally, financially and hard with the family issues. At the same time, if you can make it, it is worthwhile. You learn to make the best of each opportunity."

E-mail: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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