“And so we stayed”

Sophie Abitbol was 17 years old when her parent’s restaurant went out of business, taking her family’s investor visa and life savings with it.

  “It’s really scary to get an education, and work really hard, and not know what you’re going to be able to do with it. If I hadn’t gotten my green card, I probably would have continued to work in some little coffee shop after college.”

“It’s really scary to get an education, and work really hard, and not know what you’re going to be able to do with it. If I hadn’t gotten my green card, I probably would have continued to work in some little coffee shop after college.”

“And so we stayed because there was nothing to go back to,” Abitbol said.

As recent immigrants from France, this development rendered them unauthorized to stay in the United States.

After being accepted into UC Santa Cruz under the assumption that she would pay in-state tuition, Abitbol received a letter demanding proof of U.S. residency, or otherwise pay out-of-state tuition.

“We were still working, we payed taxes, we filed our tax returns,” Abitbol said, recalling her initial shock. “[We did] everything like everybody else.”

Abitbol called the office of Nancy Pelosi, her elected official, and left a message explaining her case. To her delight, someone from Pelosi’s office decided to pick up her case and requested approval for her California state residency for educational purposes. Abitbol described it as “miraculous” when a document certifying her residency came in the mail.

So she went to college. Yet there was always a fear of deportation in the back of her mind, one that significantly affected her financial situation.

“I was very aware that as a white French kid, I wasn’t going to be asked for papers as much as a darker-skinned person,” Abitbol said. “But I knew which jobs I could apply for, and which ones I couldn’t.”

For the entirety of her college years, Abitbol cleaned houses, worked as a babysitter, tutored, and worked in small cafes. She feared that the rest of her life would be spent in the same way.

Then, she said, her second “miracle” happened. Just a month before she graduated, Abitbol received her green card. Her experience of growing up in the shadows inspired her to teach English Language Development classes, which is what she first did at BHS.

“I had some kids who crossed desert in Arizona from Mexico, who had come from El Salvador and Nicaragua, who had ridden on the backs of buses to come here, and they would end up in my ELD class, and tell me about how scary that was, how hard it was to get here, and how hard their parents had worked to get them here,” Abitbol said.

Although she is now a naturalized citizen, Abitbol can relate to the fears of DREAMers currently facing a future in limbo in light of the abolishment of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era legislation piece that authorized the residency of young undocumented people in the United States..

“These kids were brought here when they were too young to make any other decision, and so, criminalizing them is wrong,” Abitbol said. “They’ve been here their whole lives, they’ve been educated here. I really feel like I know who these kids are.”

“I had some kids who crossed desert in Arizona from Mexico, who had come from El Salvador and Nicaragua, who had ridden on the backs of buses to come here, and they would end up in my ELD class, and tell me about how scary that was, how hard it was to get here, and how hard their parents had worked to get them here,” Abitbol said.


Although she is now a naturalized citizen, Abitbol can relate to the fears of DREAMers currently facing a future in limbo in light of the abolishment of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era legislation piece that authorized the residency of young undocumented people in the United States..


“These kids were brought here when they were too young to make any other decision, and so, criminalizing them is wrong,” Abitbol said. “They’ve been here their whole lives, they’ve been educated here. I really feel like I know who these kids are.”

Posted on October 26, 2017 .