Published Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 | 11:44 a.m.
Updated Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 | 12:26 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Every year, a hand-picked set of special guests sits with the first lady as the president delivers the State of the Union address.
This year, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have selected a young, undocumented immigrant from Las Vegas to be in one of their seats of honor.
Alan Aleman, 20, was one of the first young, undocumented immigrants from Nevada to receive work authorization under Obama’s direction to defer deportation proceedings against so-called “Dreamers” and allow them to find jobs.
Dreamers are young people brought to the United States illegally as children under the age of 16 who are enrolled in college or enlisted in the military and who, under the proposed Dream Act, would eventually be eligible for citizenship.
Aleman was born in Mexico City and came to the United States with his parents when he was 11. He went to high school, graduated from Southeast Career Technical Academy with a major in business and information technology and is enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada, where he is in his second year of studying biological science. He wants to become a doctor and serve in the Air Force.
“I never saw my immigration status as being a barrier,” Aleman told the Las Vegas Sun in a recent interview.
But it came hurdles that having a Social Security number and status — even temporary status — has now erased.
“The most important thing is living with no fear. You don’t fear being deported or being stopped by the police,” he said. “I have my driver’s license now. I have my Social Security number now. I can apply for scholarships. So, I have more opportunities, and that’s the thing I was waiting on for a long time.”
Aleman also has a little bit of celebrity among undocumented immigrants. When Obama came to Las Vegas last month to announce his plans to push for immigration reform, he recognized Aleman in the speech.
“[Immigrants] all came here knowing that what makes somebody an American is not just blood or birth, but allegiance to our founding principles and the faith in the idea that anyone from anywhere can write the next great chapter of our story,” Obama said. “And that’s still true today. Just ask Alan Aleman.”
Aleman briefly met the president that day. But the first lady’s box in the House promises much closer proximity to the first family.
Aleman is still working to help change the fortunes of others in situations similar to his. He works at Hermandad Mexicana, where he reviews applications for the deferred action and work status that changed his life.