I feel like not too many people are actually aware of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant — or a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient — so I’m here to tell my story and speak out for everyone who shares my experience.
Both of my parents were born into poverty and spent most of their lives in my hometown, Mexico City. Even though both were always commended in school for being intelligent, they didn’t have the support they needed to keep on going and instead were forced to start working at around the ages of 8-10. Neither got the chance to even graduate middle school. Eventually, their paths crossed, they fell in love, got married and had my brother and I. My dad worked as a taxi driver and my mom sold stamps for a living, for a while it seemed like they could make it, but as my brother and I got older, they realized that they did not want the same fate for us and wanted to see us get further in life than they ever could.
They knew that we didn’t meet the requirements for the Visa, but it seemed like the only chance we had at a better life was by heading north to a land of free public education with a hunger for cheap labor. After saving up enough money, a coyote brought my dad over through the desert where it took them two weeks to finally reach the promised land. They luckily made it through with nothing but the supplies they were able salvage from the trip: a gallon of water, a loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter. After making it, my dad soon began to work harder than ever. For a whole year, his days started before the sun even came out and ended when the sky was darkest until he finally saved up enough to bring my mom, brother and myself over in the safest way possible.
My mom came hidden in a secret compartment in a truck while my brother and I had to learn a few English phrases and a different identity so that we may pose as American children. Finally, my family would be once again reunited, but this was only the beginning to a challenging new journey.
I was halfway through first grade when I arrived to the U.S. I didn’t speak a slab of English, and was the only Latina student in my entire school. It was only because of the high grades I was already getting in my school in Mexico that they didn’t send me all the way back to kindergarten. My dad would come home exhausted after a long day of work as a gardener but would still stay up with me every day to read children’s books out loud to practice our English. My mom would stay home and care for us until my brother was old enough to go to pre-kindergarten, and then started working as a hotel maid. It wasn’t an easy transition for any of us, but it was in a way better than what we had, except now my parents had no idea when they’d see their mothers, siblings or nieces again, or if my brother and I will ever know what it’s like growing up in a huge traditional Mexican family. It’s been 15 years, by the way, and we still don’t know.
From then on, there have been countless cases of racism that we’ve had to deal with, by teachers and students toward my brother and I, by coworkers and employers toward my parents. We’ve had to jump over so many hurdles to finally get to where we are now. I am now in my third year at UT, my brother will be graduating from high school this year and has also been admitted to UT as a radio-television-film major and my parents are still working their butts off until they feel secure enough about our futures for them to go back with their family in Mexico.
I was lucky enough to become a DACA recipient when I turned 16, but unfortunately my brother was barely in the process of applying when Trump made it so that new applications wouldn’t be admitted anymore. Still — even though it seems like we’re making it, we haven’t gone a day without worrying about if something were to happen. If my parents get deported after being stopped for having a broken light, if my permit gets taken away or if my brother never gets the chance to get his, what will we do? We’ve come so far, yet everything still feels uncertain. We’ve had to sit down and have these conversations time after time, ever since the moment we stepped foot in foreign soil. I’ve lived my entire life fearing the very possible separation and incarceration of my family.
Still, I am always grateful for the sacrifices made by my parents. Sacrifices that so many will never have to make all so that they can see their little girl graduate. I am proud of the strides we’ve made as a family, and all I can hope for is that in the end, it will all be worth it.
Olguin is an education freshman.