Reporter: Alexis Fernandez
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - For the last fifteen years, Carlos Martinez says he's lived his life in the shadows.
“That's the only way you think in the U.S. if you're here illegally, because anytime you go to a store you can get stopped, and guess what, you can get deported,” he said.
He says his trophies, awards, and even two engineering degrees from the University of Arizona, which he can't use, mean nothing when you're an illegal immigrant.
“There was this big wall in front of me after I graduated with my master's that I couldn't see the future,” he said.
He says the American dream is a far reality for many dreamers, like him.
Since he graduated from college in 2005, he said he’s been working construction jobs just to get by.
“The majority of us don't have an opportunity to succeed," he said. "You see other people see the American dream, but for us, it's an American nightmare."
Now, he has a shot at that dream.
“I’m somebody now,” he said.
Martinez is one of the first 29 immigrants to get a work permit under President Obama's controversial deferred-action program.
“Now that wall is finally down, you know, I can see the future again, I can make plans and start thinking of contributing, giving back,” he said.
But the permit is only temporary and many who apply risk exposing one’s identity. They could be deported if a new administration is elected.
“I’d rather take that risk, because nothing has been available, if there was something available all these years trust me I would have applied,” he said.
Martinez says these work permits are a way to bring dreamers out of the shadows.