The following is from an email sent to me by a precious person who also was a client of mine a while back. I wanted to share this story with you to give you a glimpse into the struggle that many Mexican immigrants have as they enter and live in the United States. I changed some details (names and such) which would identify the person, but the story is real. – @PastorJuan
Good evening Pastor Juan,
I just finished reading your post called “Open Letter to the Republican Party.”
Within the first couple of paragraphs, I could not help but cry. (You’re probably not surprised being that I cried almost every time I met with you for counseling.) I even stopped a few times and sobbed as I held my cry in so that my roommates would not hear me.
I believe that I did not read your post by coincidence, but it was sort of used to bring some healing, peace, comfort and strength into an area of my life that I had never shared with anyone so openly like I am about to do now.
When I met with you for counseling back in 2013, I briefly shared about a law that had been passed in 2012, a law that benefited people in a situation like mine. Due to the high opposing comments said from the pulpit of my former pastor, I felt that I could not accept the benefit because “it was wrong” like it was said. I mentioned it to you, and I think you said, something along the lines of “Why not?” Your words quickly encouraged me to go for it, to apply, and go through the process and eventually be granted DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
If you are not familiar with this program, it basically states that anyone who was brought by their parents to the U.S. before reaching 16 years of age, Entered Without Inspection (EIC) or Overstayed their Visas and was at least 31 years of age by August 12, 2012, could apply for Deferred Action and a work permit that is renewable every two years. Because of this, being granted DACA, the last four years of my life have changed quite a bit. As you know, I was able to save money, purchased my first car, got a new job, I got braces, I moved out, and I received an external scholarship for $29,000 that will help me finish my bachelors’ degree. The latter one was granted by millionaires who believed in people like me and decided to give us (me) a chance to study, since we are not allowed to obtain federal aid for school. But, it was not always easy to talk about who I am. Though I could talk to friends, high school mates and coworkers of where I came from, I have never actually mentioned how I got here.
Back in Mexico, sometime before 2000, I vaguely remember my parents talking about moving to “el otro lado” (the other side). They never really mentioned it to me or my sisters until a few days before we left Mexico. Though we had already visited in ’95 with our visas, it never crossed my mind that one day I would be living here. But, in July 2000, two months before my 13th birthday, I remember getting ready to go. One of the things that I clearly remember is using a shoebox that I neatly wrapped in two separate pieces to put all my belongings: posters of the Backstreet Boys, music cassettes, a tiny fairy toy doll that held glitter dust in a container under the skirt, a ring that was given to me by my parents when I started first grade, and a drawing I made of a house I dreamt to have. I also remember the morning when we left. It was early, though it was summer, there was a cool breeze my mom’s dad, who is (was) a U.S. citizen, picked us up in his long brown car. We drove up the street and I remember looking back, waving goodbye to my dad’s dad, Guelito (Grandpa), Tia (my aunt) who stayed the night to say goodbye, Tio (uncle) who lived up the street, and our neighbors, Tio (other uncle) and Tia (other aunt). I never once thought that I would never see some of them again, except through social media and one who would come visit every year.
Near the border, it was a nerve-racking and a different experience from the first time we visited the US. This time we were told “Si te preguntan a que vienes, diles que a visitar” (If they ask you why you are coming, say to visit). Though I was in my preteen years, somehow I knew I could not mess up
otherwise I would be in trouble. I also recall one of my Tias (aunts), who was also a resident in the States, taking my one-year-old sister before we crossed the border. I did not understand it then, but came to find out later that my sister did not have a visa, so she passed as if she were my Tia’s daughter with my cousin’s birth certificate. At checkpoint, I recall an officer; I would still recognize his face if I were to see him now. He looked at my passport and then looked intently at me; Nervousness pulsing through all of me as he asked me if I was the girl on the passport and I nodded. We crossed and made it to Houston, then three weeks later to Dallas to live with my dad’s sister.
From then on, I knew and grew up with a different mindset than from the kids who were born here in the States, but I did not know how difficult it was going to get, at least emotionally. The constant reminder of “fear the cops” as mom would throw herself back on the passenger seat when dad would drive by a police car. Or, hearing “joking” remarks about being “illegals” from relatives and even those in the church. Or, hearing indirect remarks of how they will not struggle in taking “us” to a trip if there are going to be checkpoints on the way. But, perhaps, the toughest one was, not being able to begin a normal teen life, such as applying for a learner’s permit or a driver’s license and apply for colleges and scholarships due to me not being a U.S Citizen.
I am not looking for pity. I have come to trust you, Pastor Juan, as the Lord has helped me in so many ways through your counsel. I know that you receive my open heart in a very objective and helping way if I may say so, and, that is the reason why I can talk openly about this subject that had haunted me for quite a while.
Fast-forward to this year, after DACA, and the many accomplishments I have been able to fulfill because of it, I cannot help but feel so much gratefulness toward those who believed in me. The day I received the email that congratulated me on receiving the scholarship, guess what happened? Yes, I bawled! I was in doubt; I did not think that they would want a woman of my age using their money. However, I guess they liked what I wrote on those essays, saw my accomplishments and grades, and believed in me. I truly believe the Lord fulfilled those desires I had back when I was 18: getting a driver’s license, finishing college and moving out of my parent’s home, as some of my friends did when they got out of high school.
However, again, the reason why I wrote to you is that I wanted to share my story and share the fear that was in me if ever I was to share this with anyone. I was afraid of being rejected, being called out, being an outcast, being seen as inferior. Hey, there are times when you think your own Raza (race/people) will stick up for you, but it is not always like that. I saw it many times when my dad was underpaid (even by relatives or other Latinos), and he could not say a thing, otherwise they would threaten to stop giving him work. I remember seeing tears of frustration. Something that he hardly does, as he is not very open with his feelings and emotions.
Back to DACA, I do not know if you are aware but there are 10 states that are being led by Texas’ Attorney General and they are pressuring the president to end the program, just as he said he would when he was campaigning. Since then, president Trump has warmed up a bit to us (immigrants) and has not decided, but the 10 states made it clear that they wanted an answer by September 5th or else they would take it to court. There are also two Senators, one from Illinois and one for South Carolina who want to introduce a bill that would give us permanent residency, given that we’ve been good citizens through DACA.
One of the many things that I learned while counseling with you and in my own experiences and times with the Lord, is that no matter what, I will be okay, because the Lord is with me. I have learned that it is appropriate to prepare for unforeseen circumstances, but I learned not to allow, “What could be,” to shake my peace and control my present decisions to the point that it brings me down to fear and doubt. If anything, I know that no matter what, the Lord will guide me and take care of what I need, just as He has in the past no matter the outcome. Nevertheless, I think deep down there were certain fears and emotions that I bottled deep down in me, which is the reason why I bawled while I read your post.
Last week, the scholarship board sent a questionnaire for us awardees to fill out. Some of the questions asked to share our story however open we wanted to be; I did not share much as I did with you just now. But, one of the questions went along the lines of “What would you say to those in office would like to stop DACA?” And, just as you described Latinos on your post, I described myself as who I am. Hard worker, wanting to give back to a country that although does not recognize me as a citizen, I consider myself as one because I have lived here longer than I have been alive.
This is all I know (more than any Mexican history), this is where I grew up and became who I am now. And, I do not feel entitled to anything as might some people who were born here, but I feel privileged to be here. It is always an honor to pledge allegiance to a flag that although is not from the country I was born in, I am prideful to recite what it stands for: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And, like I told them on my answer, any time I am at a ball game, I cannot help but secretly shed tears and truly pray the song “God bless America” because I truly love Her, knowing that anything that happens to it, happens to people who live here who came from all parts of the world, to friends, to relatives, to me, to my family (and future family.) To people who struggled to be here, to find hope, safety and the American dream. I told them this and now that I have shared my story with you, I feel this huge weight lifted from me.
Thank you, Pastor Juan, for taking the time to read my story. All I wanted was to pour it out on someone and I know it fell on good ears.