The Conversation: My Undocumented Life

Diane Sawyer talks with an undocumented Arizona resident.

ByABC News
July 27, 2010, 9:30 AM

July 28, 2010— -- On Wednesday a federal judge blocked key portions of Arizona's tough new immigration law, a major blow to Arizona officials who had written the law.

Among the provisions U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put on hold are the "reasonable suspicion" section that would allow police to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant. She also temporarily blocked the part of the law requiring the carrying of federal immigration documents.

But there is no saying that today's ruling will not be overturned on appeal. Thousands of immigrants could be affected either way.

In today's Conversation ABC's Diane Sawyer spoke with Erika, an undocumented Arizona resident who says she has been in the U.S. since age 11.

Erika came to Mesa, Arizona with her family in 1998, escaping an abusive father. She considers Arizona the only home she knows and was fearful that this new law could have led to her deportation.

Erika and her family had already begun discussing options if the law had gone into effect. She said her main hope was to not have to flee the state, like many of her friends did in advance of today's ruling.

"There are a lot of people moving, a lot of my friends are actually moving as well," Erika told Sawyer. "They are going to other states, some of them are going back to Mexico."

"I want to stay here in this country. This is my home. And I don't want to be separated from my family," said Erika. "A lot of my nephews are citizens and they want to stay here in their country, and if I were to go back, I wouldn't see them again."

An honor student who recently graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in psychology, Erika dreams one day of being a counselor.

"I've been looking forward to being able to do what I studied for, what I worked so hard for and show this country that immigrants can also be good people," Erika told Sawyer. "We're not here to take over."

But because of the current scrutiny over immigration status Erika cannot even work odd jobs, leaving her and her family struggling to get by.

Erika does understand the need for immigration laws, and believes those laws should be followed, but is quick to add that not all undocumented residents are criminals or human smugglers and that must be taken into account.

Today's Conversation is a look at the personal side of the immigration debate.

More stories from ABC News' special series "Out of the Shadows: Illegal Immigration in America"

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