I was brought to America as a three year old—so early in my life that I don’t remember anything before LAX. My short immigrant history is about documents: report cards, extracurricular achievement certificates, school pictures etc. My mother meticulously collected all these 8.5 by 11 inch fragments of my life and safely put them in a folder. As a child I always wondered why. I always thought that those documents were useless and just objects I could brag about if I was so full of myself. As an adolescent, however, I discovered I was undocumented. Obama’s DACA program presented a use for these documents. In order to apply, I had to present evidence that I had been here before 2007. My mother made copies of all those documents—from my kindergarten school play participation certificate to my Columbia acceptance letter—and paradoxically used these documents to document that I was undocumented. These documents were my attempt at proving that I belonged in America yet they got me an Employment Authorization Document (shown here) that told me that I did not. For government officials, this document serves to exclude me from belonging. For me, as an undocumented immigrant, documents serve to justify my belonging, to keep me from being forgotten and to leave a trace of myself in America. For me, this document, despite the exclusionary language, represents a part of my story in America.
– Shiv Gupta