Diana Gameros, 33, sings about the struggles of her hometown in Mexico and about life as undocumented immigrant. Her debut album, Eterno Retorno, was released in 2014 and Mother Jones called her one of five female singers to watch

Now, after 13 years in the US, she has a visa that puts her on the path to citizenship. And she's working on her second album. Here’s her story, in her own words.

My identity, it’s not determined by a paper. I’m a human being. And just because a law says I cannot work, I can’t get a drivers license, I can’t go to school, I can’t get financial aid, because of my status, that doesn’t determine who I am.

My name is Diana Gameros. I am a musician, singer, songwriter, music instructor, social justice activist. I came here to go to college and pretty much made a life here. And I know that leaving would mean not being able to come back because of my immigration status.

Being from Ciudad Juárez has not been easy. Even though I haven’t lived there for the past 15 years, my whole family is still there. Every member of my family experienced a particular kind of violence. My father and my sister were pulled out of the car at 2 p.m., with machines guns. They took their car and left them there on the street. The fact that I was away from Ciudad Juárez, in a way, made my dad feel a little bit better. It was one less daughter to worry about getting killed.

“En Juárez” is song that I wrote thinking about mothers. So I dedicate it to mothers who have to raise children in violent cities.

I think it’s important to know people’s stories — to really connect with what is behind somebody wanting to come to this country. There’s much more than, “Oh, people want to come here for the American Dream.” There’s no such thing as the American Dream. People are coming here to feed their children. To provide for them.

The song “Tus Pasos” was born out of my desire to say, “Let’s open up all borders. All of you people migrating in the world, you my little sister, everybody come out to California. I want to welcome you Syrians, you Mexicans, you Latin Americans, you Asians, and support them and love them in their journey out of their homes to a new land."

It’s been 13 years since I came to the US and I haven’t been able to go back to Mexico or travel outside of the US. But I finally have a visa and will be able to get my permanent residency in two years. And I will finally be able to go back home to visit.

Video by Kelly Whalen/KQED.

See Gameros perform at the Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland on Feb. 28. More of her performances and appearances are available on her website.

From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International