FAMILY vacations are usually a nice getaway from home, but for one 13-year-old, her destination became her home.
"I thought we were going to Disney World for vacation," said Maria Marroquin, an undocumented resident who spoke yesterday at an immigration-reform rally in Center City. "I had no idea we were going to stay here."
Marroquin left Peru with her family 10 years ago, and they overstayed their visitors' visas, eventually settling in Glenside.
Now 23, Marroquin has graduated from Montgomery County Community College - a feat that took four years instead of two because she had to pay tuition out of pocket at the pricier international-student rate.
"I saw myself as no different from my classmates and friends," she said outside the Independence Visitors Center, 6th and Market streets. "But I soon realized I did not have the same opportunities as they did."
Marroquin was one of 12 speakers at the rally sponsored by the Pennsylvania chapter of Reform Immigration for America (RIFA). More than 60 people attended the rally and marched around Independence Hall, carrying signs that implored President Obama to "keep his promises" to enact immigration reform.
Ali Kronley, the Pennsylvania representative for RIFA, cautioned lawmakers from replicating the controversial Arizona law here, stressing that immigration should be tackled on the federal level.
"I see [the rally] as a real chance to hold President Obama accountable to the promises he made in the 2008 election," she said.
For Carmen Guerrero, an immigration activist who has been living illegally in Upper Merion for 10 years, walking in the march was about showing off her skin color.
"I'm brown," she said. "I came here to bring my face. Just because I am brown, I do not want to be harassed by police. We are doing good things here."
Marroquin said she was at the event for the same reason - because she is proud of what she is doing in the country.
"Last Monday, I finally turned in my application for graduation with an associate's degree in political science with a 3.9 GPA," she said. "I have continued to persevere despite my situation."