The only home Jose Muñoz remembers is the U.S. He graduated with honors from Sheboygan South High School in 2005, but at 25, he found himself depressed at not being able to find work without papers. He never thought that his incessant video game playing would ultimately save his undocumented life.
He and his family immigrated to California from Mexico when he was just 1 year old and moved to Sheboygan, Wis., a few years later, where his father got a job.
“I wanted to go to school, but if I got a degree from a college or technical school, how would I get a job without citizenship?” he told the Journal Sentinel. “I was scared. I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do.”
That’s when he started playing video games to pass the time.
“I was just vegging, but I was bored and getting depressed,” he said. “It was upsetting because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I was sick of it. I was waiting around hoping something would happen.”
Then last year, President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which would allow people who came here before they were 16 and under 31 on June 15, 2012, the chance to stay in the U.S. for two years to work and go to school without fear of deportation.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Muñoz. “I was shocked. I thought now I have a chance.”
Right away, he went to see an attorney who told him he met all the requirements for deferred action, however he had one problem. He had to prove his residency in the U.S. since June 2007. Since he graduated high school in 2005, lived with his parents, and didn’t have a work or medical record, he didn’t know how to prove his existence in the U.S.
“What matters most is that he’s been here since age 1,” says his lawyer, Davorin Odrcic. “He deserves to be here.”
Odrcic says that while talking with Muñoz, they realized they both loved video games. A light bulb went off for Odrcic that Muñoz might have a record of the games he’s purchased since 2007.
Muñoz did in fact have an Xbox Live account where he bought games since 2007, and he sent the proof of his address and account information to Odrcic.
“I thought I had a 50-50 chance,” Muñoz told the Journal Sentinel.
Two months later, Muñoz finally received the letter granting him deferred status.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It took a couple of days for me to realize how big this was. My older sister cried.”
He now has a driver’s license, was able to buy a car, and most importantly, he can work. According to Odrcic, Muñoz is now hard to track down, because he now has two jobs — at a factory and a restaurant.
“I work seven days a week, but that’s OK, because I’m saving money to go to school and help my family,” said Muñoz who wants to study marketing, computers or sports journalism. “After all that time that I was so bored, now I don’t like having a day off. I’ve had enough days off…I can finally do what I want to do because nothing is holding me back.”