Fifteen year old, Rose Garcia (a plucky but introverted Filipino-American) dreams of one day becoming a country music star. She lives with her mom, Priscilla, in a rundown motel in dusty Lubbock, Texas where her mom works as a maid. Rose spends her summer working at the local record store where she meets Elliot, a big-city emo teen staying in town for summer with his divorced dad.
At first, Rose butts heads with Elliot (who prefers alternative music and hates everything Texan), but as the two spend the summer working together, Rose begins to warm up to Elliot. Eventually Rose shares her country music dreams with Elliot. Elliot’s heart goes out to her because despite her obvious talent, the locals taunt and tease her and call her Yellow Rose. As he begins to fall for her, Elliot gains a new appreciation for country music especially and vows to help her anyway he can.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Rose, her mom has been hiding deportation letters from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The sleazy owner of the motel, Alan, offers to marry Priscilla for her citizenship. When she refuses, Alan calls the dogs on Priscilla.
One night, Elliot convinces Rose to go with him to a local honky tonk Jolene’s . Rose (who’s never been to any bar much less ever even had a drink) is in country music heaven. She even meets a washed up country singer called Jimmy Redburn. Flattered by her knowledge of his music, Jimmy buys Rose a drink but Jolene (the owner) disapproves and eventually throws the underage teenagers out along with the questionable Jimmy.
Later that night, when Elliot and Rose return to her home, police cars and ICE trucks are parked outside. They watch as Rose’s mom gets thrown into an immigration truck and taken away with other undocumented workers. Rose is in shock and her first instinct is to run to her mother, but Elliot drives off insisting that she save herself.
Priscilla is interrogated and eventually gets sent to a detention center waiting to be deported with no way of contacting Rose.
Elliot offers for Rose to stay in his house with his egotistical conductor father ,Vaclav, while they figure out what to do. Vaclav, originally from the Czech Republic, brags about a special visa he received for his extraordinary ability, the EB-1 . Rose gets the crazy idea this is her ticket to freedom despite Elliot’s skepticism.
Priscilla goes through her days in the detention center like a prisoner awaiting execution and is worried sick about the whereabouts of her daughter. She gets assigned a sympathetic Mexican pro-bono immigration lawyer, Gomez, who promises to help her find her daughter. She tells him about Elliot. Gomez gets a hold of Elliot who at first hides the fact that he knows where Rose is.
Rose returns to Jolene’s and plays for Jimmy who is surprised and amazed by her talents. Rose’s first gig doesn’t go too well and she gets heckled off stage. Jimmy, desperate for a way to return to his former country music glory, agrees to mentor her much to Elliot’s protests. Fearing that Rose may be in over her head with Jimmy , calls Gomez. As Gomez pulls up to Elliot’s house, Rose sees this as a betrayal and runs to Jolene’s who offers her a place to stay .
With time running out, Rose blindly follows Jimmy’s advice and follows him on gigs. Elliot and Gomez find out where Rose is staying and when they arrive at Jolene’s , Jimmy takes her on the run. Elliot, fearing for Rose’s safety desperately searches for them as Gomez tries to buy more time for Priscilla.
As Rose embarks on this harrowing, funny and heartbreaking journey, she begins to realize that the “American Dream” she once longed for may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.