Today in the U.S to be more specific we see immigration as no longer the core of what make this country great. As I was an illegal immigrant for 10 years, I can only imagine how it felt to travel across the ocean many decades ago, to be at the same spot I was ten years ago. The view was surely different many decades ago, but just ten years ago, I was called a “border hoper,” I did not realize how offensive that was. As a kid, you just don’t know what’s going on. For those who have gone through this, which there are countless of those who came and are still coming to the U.S, then my walk through this country is somewhat relatable. My life as an immigrant was trying to adapt to a new culture, as kid it was difficult. Not realizing I was an illegal immigrant until I got to a more mature age was hard to cope with, lastly leaving everything behind for what I never expected to be both a challenge and an achievement.
In every country, there is a variety of culture some we bring from our homeland and some we learn and try to adapt from our surroundings. In addition, coming to the U.S and trying to adjust to a new culture was a challenge for a 10-year-old. For one it was going to school, the way it worked was very different from where I had gone before. I had never seen so many kids go to school; in Mexico if the parents can’t afford to get an education for their kids then work was the other choice. In addition, back in my country the school I went to had only 12 classrooms, which made the school here big. I can honestly say back in my country Mexico, there was no such thing as free lunch for those who couldn’t afford it, and I had never seen so much food. I can say that going to school and getting free food was the best part. On the other hand, the first couple of weeks in school I had no friends not because I couldn’t make them but because I was unable to make conversation. The way they spoke their language was unknown to me and I was just bad at it so making the effort was pointless. Furthermore, me being different from everyone else also brought those kids who were not nice, just by not speaking their language or being like them they would find ways to make me cry. I can remember coming home from school crying, no longer wanting to be in the class because I knew the minute I arrived it would be torture. However, those experiences made me want to learn English. I got switched in classes to a class that was called English for Speakers of other Languages. I took that class from the age of 10 through 14 and I learned the basics like reading, writing, and speaking English. According to Mimi V. Chapman and Krista M. Perreira, “when they are confronted with making new friends, and learning to operate in the new world outside of home in a radically different culture and in another language, their appraisal may be much less positive than their parents” (106) It means that parents state of mind is different when it comes to moving to a different country. To my perspective my parents brought me here for a better future and for me at the age of ten it was not a good decision, or so I thought.
Once you’re done with high school the teachers, counselors, and friends ask you, “where will you be attending college?” And with an excited face you tell them where. Before graduation they show you how to fill out the FASFA, so you can get free money to attend college. In my case, it was different when I asked my parents to attend a school meeting, I told them it was for Spanish speaking parents to learn how to fill out the FASFA. As they were being trained, the lady that was helping us asked my parents if they had brought my social security card. Me feeling confident that my parents had it, I thought that at some point they would take it out, well that was not the case. All my parents said was that I had no social security card only, an ITIN number which is for tax purposes. On that moment, I thought that the lady was going to say it was fine, but what she said was we cannot fill the FASFA with that. I asked the lady how would I be able to apply for a social security card, what she told me was that my situation as an illegal immigrant, I had to first apply for residency and that alone was a long process, my parents told the lady that we were in the process, but that we were waiting to be called. The lady told us that we were doing good by waiting, but that it would take forever and I would have to until I got my residency or reform to be able to attend college. At 18 it was the first time I had ever heard “illegal immigrant”, and it was my status. I wondered how did that happened? After the meeting had ended I asked my parents the same question, and my mother told me it was because I crossed the border illegally, without fallowing government laws. The day after I went to school, I spoke to one of my teacher and asked her the same question, I told her how I came here in the U.S and she explained in detail why? According to Leisy Janet Abrego, “The legal and social contradictions associated with undocumented status limit these youths’ chances for upward mobility through traditional means” (112). Basically, this means that being undocumented stops young people from trying to achieve their goal, Leisy also mentions that there are 65,000 undocumented students that graduate from high school but most cannot afford going to college. There was still some hope, or o I thought. I applied to a couple of colleges, trying to keep going with my studies, in spite of the circumstances I was in. I was feeling a bit optimistic about my future. One day I got a call from Riverside Community College, my parents took me and we spoke with the counselor, we explained to her my situation and she told me that colleges were expensive and one unit was about $95 dollars. She told me that I had to take required classes in order to get started, and those classes were more than one unit per class, she also explained that I had to purchase books and that was pricey too. She asked me if I had applied for non-profit scholarship, free money that would be of benefit to me, especially in my case. Had I known there was such a thing I probably would have applied to as many as I could to have some money. I was not aware I was unable to get grant money neither did I think about getting scholarships. I was unable to attend college for 6 years, because that’s how long it took me to save money that I had to work hard. At the same time the government passed the Dream Act, that was made for undocumented students able to work freely without being afraid. I was able work and save money to start my dream, which was to attend college and to be the first in my family to go to college. Going to college to me is a blessing that I will never take for granted. Just to be aware that I took a step forward in my life makes me happy.
As a kid, I was happy to be surrounded by my close family and friends. In Mexico I was poor but I was not aware of that, all I knew was that every day I was at walking distance from my family and friends that I could spend some quality time. Knowing that I was leaving and never coming back was hard to acknowledge. Crossing the border and coming here, leaving everything behind for what I never expected to be both a challenge and an achievement was hard to appreciate as a child. According to Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD; Luis H. Zayas, PhD; and Edward L. Spitznagel, PhD, “At least 300,000-500,000 undocumented immigrants arrive in the United States each year.’ Currently, there are about 4.5 million undocumented men, 3.2 million undocumented women and approximately 1.6 million undocumented children age 18” (1126) The time that I was undocumented I had to learn how to survive, in a system that labeled me as the minority. I was not and I’m still not recent full of that, but because it made learn how to overcome those barriers and be a strong independent woman. At the age of 18 when I got my first job prior to graduating high school, I was working illegally I am not proud of admitting to it but it was something I had no choice, I had to bring money to the table to pay bills, eat, and have clothes, and save money for college. The fear was with me every time I worked, I understood if someone found out about my status I would not only end up in jail but also be deported and send back to my homeland. There is this say that “baggers can’t be choosers” so what I got was what I got and I learned how to be grateful for it. Once I came to the U.S my parents signed the whole family to get residency and well the process was long, we had to wait until the immigration court saw our case. To have an appointment and obtain our residency took us 12 years. In 2015, my family and I had our appointment, for what seemed like forever ended, we finally obtain our residency and I became one of the many who got a shot at moving up in the U.S. Enduring everything, and having patience was a key to obtaining something I honestly had lost hope for. With all my heart, I can say I am grateful, for the chance I got. Every day from that day on I felt like a burden was lifted because I was a legal resident of this country. Knowing that if the Dream Act was to be taken away, I had no worries of my future. To me that was the highlight of being here in the U.S and I felt a huge difference. In two years from today I will submit paperwork to become a citizen if this country and that is the last step that I would take soon, hoping I do well.
In conclusion, transitioning to a new culture, my status of being an illegal immigrant, and overcoming the challenges and turning it to an achievement, was difficult not impossible but surely not the easiest part of my life. As stated in the article, Immigrants’ kids bullied in US: No more the Land of immigrants? “Educating immigrant youth about their rights is another step in the right direction. Children should be well-versed in the art of seeking assistance in crisis situations from a trusted adult.” This means that we should not be afraid in asking questions. I never asked questions until I got to a much older age, so for me it was difficult but it shouldn’t be that way. Our voice is the right that is given to us by this country undocumented or not. As undocumented as I was not aware of that but knowing what I know now, I will never keep my mouth shut, neither should you.
Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD; Luis H. Zayas, PhD; and Edward L. Spitznagel, PhD. Legal Status, Emotional Well-Being, and Subjective Health Status of Latino Immigrants. Journal of The National Medical Association vol. 99. 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/. Accessed 10 October 2007.
The article Legal Status, Emotional Well-Being, and Subjective Health Status of Latino Immigrants, its claim and support is the Journal of the National Medical Association Scholarly level. The key quote, “Among the many stresses that undocumented Latino immigrants experience, worries about their legal status and preoccupation with disclosure and deportation. (1126 1st paragraph) Picked this article because of its strong stands on the emotional feel that those crossing the border go through.
Mimi V. Chapman & Krista M. Perreira. The Well-Being of Immigrant Latino Youth: A Framework to Inform Practice. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services Volume 86, No. 1. 2005. http://www.ucdenver.edu/. Accessed 2005.
The article The Well-being of Immigrant Latinos Youth: A Frame to Inform Practice, the claims and support is The Journal of Contemporary Social Service. Liability of source scholarly level. The key quote is, “the successful adaptation of Latino youth in immigrant families” (104 Abstract) I picked this article because it talks about the confrontations young people face when they travel from their homeland to live their life’s in a foreign country.
Leisy Janet Abrego. Article ‘‘I Can’t Go to College Because I Don’t Have Papers’’: Incorporation Patterns of Latino Undocumented Youth. University of California, Los Angeles, CA. Latino studies – 4:3. 2006. http://www.williamperezphd.com/articles/abrego-2006.pdf. Accessed 2006.
The article ‘‘I Can’t Go to College Because I Don’t Have Papers’’: Incorporation Patterns of Latino Undocumented Youth, its claim and support is the University of California in Los Angele Ca. in a scholarly level. Key quote, “In some cases, knowledge of future barriers to college attendance leads to a decline in educational motivation” (212 Abstract) I picked this article, because it caught my attention in how they explained the experience of Alisa life story. I used it to give a similarity to my situation.
Immigrants’ kids Bullied in U.S: No More the Land of Immigrants. Parenting Challenges/ Bullies. http://www.secureteen.com/. Accessed 2009.
Key Quote, “unfortunately, these people are also targeted by bullies on the base of race.” I picked this article because it made it clear that immigration affects children, not just by having to move to a new place, but also what they face in their schools, and the way they are being treated.
Mary Tamer. The Education of Immigrant Children As the demography of the U.S. continues to shift, how can schools best serve their changing population? Harvard Graduate School of Education. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/14/12/education-immigrant-children. 2014.. Accessed on December 11, 2014 9:47 a.m.
The article Education of Immigrant Children, its claim a support usable knowledge research to practice. Key quote, “the greatest challenges immigrant children face in U.S. classrooms” I picked this article because of it depth in the school system and how they give information on students and what they face every day.