A rally in Sacramento in 2010. Photo by Rigoberto Hernandez.

Some of them have only been in the country a few months, but students at the San Francisco International High School are already tackling difficult topics that transcend borders. Each student has selected a “Change-maker,” someone who, in their eyes, is solving the problems these students care about most. In this ongoing series, Mission Local presents their stories and their profiles of their heroes.

Recent estimates put the number of immigrants living in the United States at around 41 million — about 13 percent of the overall population. The United States is a disproportionately popular destination, attracting 20 percent of the entire world’s migrants, despite accounting for less than five percent of the global population. When immigrants arrive, they face cultural and linguistic barriers as well as economic challenges. Some 11.6 million of these immigrants are undocumented, and face even greater barriers to starting their new lives. The following students have first-hand experience with the process of immigration and chose to profile change-makers who help others with their transitions into the country.

Dulce Alfaro


My name is Dulce Alfaro, and I am 17-years-old. I am from Mexico. I studied problems that undocumented people face. Some common problems that undocumented people face are injustices in their work — like low wages that do not even reach the minimum wage in San Francisco. There are also bad working conditions. For example, no breaks to rest.

It’s incredible how some people survive in this country. Why do they endure all these things? The answer is because in their country there is poverty, violence or no jobs. Also, people want to give their families better life conditions and offer a better education to their children. But they sacrifice spending time with their families and not knowing when they can return home again.

This problem affected my life because my dad immigrated to the United States when I was two years old. It really is very hard growing up without a father. I grew up with my mother, but it is not enough, you always feel you are missing something inside you.

In my opinion, to solve this problem the United States’ government needs to make new laws that protect  undocumented people against injustices or discrimination. If you, reader, agree, please remember immigrants are people like you and me, and please be fair.

Emmanuel Ferrer


My name is Emmanuel. I am from Mexico and I have lived in this country for two years. I am 16 years old.

The problem of discrimination against immigrants is important to me because I know many people who are looking for jobs where the employers ask for immigration papers to work. If they don’t have papers they can’t get a better job. I know of many people who tried to work in restaurants and cannot work because they don’t have papers. They try and try and do not get jobs, so they became desperate and sometimes start doing illegal things.

Kelly Ou


My name is Kelly Ou. I’m a 17-year-old immigrant student at San Francisco International High School. I’m an optimist, a dog lover, food lover, and I don’t like boring stuff.

I am interested in this topic because San Francisco is a big immigration city with many people from different countries. Also, my whole family is comprised of immigrants and my family has gotten unfair treatment. For example, they get a lower wage, and don’t have the same rights as others citizens. This is an important topic because lots of immigrants are facing these problems, especially the people who work in Chinatown.

In my perfect world, I think everyone should be equal, everyone should get the same rights and fair treatment. Some questions I have about this problem are: What kinds of discrimination have happened in SF? Do people try to change it? What does the government do to treat this problem? How do people think about immigrants? And do people think immigrants should get the same rights as them?

Stefany Garcia


My name is Stefany Garcia. I am from El Salvador. I am 15 years old. One thing I like to do is listen to music.

This problem is important to me because many people in this country are immigrants and have many problems because maybe these people don’t have documents and it is more difficult to work. This problem is also important because in our country we have so much poverty and this is one reason that we need go to another country like the United States. For example, I wanted to stay in my country because there everything is different. I miss my country and I want to be there. But I also know that I have a better future here, so that’s why I need to be here.

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