Before August 2012, my younger sister, Alma, and I had very little hope in obtaining any form of legal status in the United States. Our parents wanted to give us a future with hope, so they decided to move to the United States. My father first migrated to Dallas, TX in 1995, and then my mother followed the following February. At that time, it was just my older sister, Maria, Alma, and me. In retrospect, I contemplate on my parents’ decision to migrate, and now I understand why.
America has always been a land that has attracted immigrants for centuries. We can see that from Christopher Columbus and the first early Pilgrims. We know it is not uncommon for people to leave their native land in hopes of finding better opportunities. Just like the early English settlers, my parents did just that.
I grew up in Dallas, TX since I was five years old. I was unaware of my undocumented status until I was twelve. I finally questioned my parents as I began to grow older, because I could sense that something was different about us. It all became more of a reality when my father was deported in December 2004. That was the day my family was separated. Alma and I lived with our cousin after our father’s deportation, but without any immediate family, that situation didn’t last long, and Alma and I soon had to fend for ourselves. We bounced around from place to place and hoped that someone would be kind enough to bring us into their family. She and I even experienced separation from each other. However, we figured our parents had brought us to America for a purpose, and we wanted to make the most of it.
Through all of the house hopping and instability, we chose to progress. We graduated high school, and we both have graduated from El Centro Community College with Associate’s degrees. We believed that if we were good children and did the right things, we would eventually be rewarded for our actions. And we were rewarded. President Obama opened the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 for undocumented children like my sister and me. Since then, we both have applied for Advance Parole to travel to Mexico. We saw our parents in 2015 for the first time since 2004. Alma still has DACA, and that is how she is protected from deportation. I have gone on to receive my Green Card since I married my wife. If DACA is obliterated, the hopes and dreams of many will also die. Should the children be punished? We are tired, sick and weary. We seek refuge as those who came before us.
As I returned to Juarez, I realized my parents saved me from a life I have not known. I saw the poverty and hopelessness in many there. I would not have had the opportunity to share my story today about my immigrant journey, had I been sent to Mexico after my father’s deportation. If I had been sent away, I would not have had the education I have today to help those less fortunate. I would not have had the opportunity to speak into people’s lives and show them how to trust God, even in their darkest moments. Had I been sent away, my book, Left In America would not have been published. I encourage you to read it and learn more about my journey.
My sister, Alma, and I are not the only ones. We, the Dreamers, were brought to the United States in hopes of making a better future for our families, and I compare it to the early Pilgrims who did the same. We are not all criminals. We are not all rapists. We are not all drug dealers. We are here to make a future for ourselves. We are here to serve others with our gifts and talents. We are here to stay.