Privilege is defined as having special rights, advantages, or immunities. For some individuals this is mainly derived for money or riches. As for myself, I feel the most privileged when I am surrounded with my family and being able for a slight second forget about my status in this country.
I was born July 11, 1995 in Guanajuato Mexico. My family lived in poverty and thus my mother was unable to deliver me in a hospital. I was born on a July night inside of a hut surrounded by my aunts. My father was unable to watch my birth because he was in the United States working to send us as much money as he possibly could so my two older siblings and I could live a better life. Unfortunately, I was forced to spend the first five years of my life without my father. He missed so many of my childhood milestones, which is time we will never get back or memories he’ll never be able to experience. I remember looking at other families and seeing both their parents together; this always brings tears to my eyes because I wished I had my father with me. I spent all my time alongside my mother and watched her as she cared for us. She has always been a soft-spoken woman, but I could see sadness in her eyes when we asked about my father, or even when he called to hear our voices.
Eventually my parents had enough of living so many miles apart, so they decided that it was time to join him in Bakersfield. My father paid “los coyotes” to immigrate my mother, siblings and I in late June. We arrived at Santa Catarina Mexico and stayed with my relatives until the “coyotes” came for us. Unaware of what was to happen, I celebrated my birthday alongside my mother’s side of the family. I woke the next morning to rustling of clothes and my mom rushing to get everybody ready. We stood outside as a van drove up and two strangers stepped out and quickly spoke to my mother and then turned to us. They placed our suitcases in the back seat, and as I turned to look at my mother, I saw her eyes water and face drop as she talked to the strangers. She hurried over to us and gave us a big hug as she let out a sigh. She explained that she would see us soon and not to worry, that we would be with our father soon. The women placed me in the back seat, and I rushed over to the window to take one last look at my mother. As we drove off, I could feel my heart pounding with fear and sadness. I was scared because I didn’t know the strangers driving us, and sad because I had never spent a day away from my mother. My siblings were ordered to sit in the front which made me sad also because I was in the back by myself. At the last stop close to the border, they placed me under the seat and covered me with suitcases because they didn’t have a passport that matched my age or resembled me physically. As my siblings sat in the front seat of the worn-down van, they sang songs to me, and I dozed off to sleep.
When I woke, we were no longer in Mexico but in the United States and on our way to see my father. I didn’t know it then, but it was the start of a new life filled with opportunities. The reunion was terrifying. When we arrived at my aunt’s house, which is where we would be living for the next six months, I saw my father after so many years of separation. I leaped into his arms with excitement and tears coming down my face. As I looked around, I noticed so many faces I did not recognize. They were so excited to see us, but they were just strangers to me. I didn’t know who those people were; I saw so many faces, but the one face I did not see was my mother’s. I didn’t want to hug or celebrate with everyone else; I only wanted her. I let out a big cry and didn’t want to talk to anyone. We later learned that she would be taking longer to arrive than expected. I sat for hours outside my aunt’s house waiting for her; day by day I would see cars zooming passed the street, and I wished my mother would be in one of them, I missed her terribly and cried every night. However, one day one of those cars did stop, and I was reunited with the one women who has never let me down; my mother was with us again. I leaped into her arms as we all cried and sat in silence in each other’s arms. I had never had to face anything as difficult as to not having my mother around.
Life in the United States was difficult at first, especially for my mother, a traditional Hispanic woman who lived on a ranch all her life. She sacrificed being with her family and her home to give my siblings and me a better life. She did not know the language and was unfamiliar with Bakersfield, but she still managed to take us to the doctor and enroll us in school. How she did it I will never know; what I do know is that appreciate everything she has done for my siblings and me.
School was a new adventure, but I was lucky enough to have been in class with my cousin who helped me become accustomed to the new school. I started kindergarten that August and learned English at the same pace as everyone else. My siblings didn’t have it as easy as I did, for they were older, so everything was harder for them. They did not know how to speak English, which only caused them to fall behind in every material everyone else was learning.
I was fortunate enough to have been able to migrate at such a young age because that gave me the opportunity to attain my education in the United States. I excelled academically and was able to help my siblings along the way. During elementary school, I received awards such as Honor Role, Principal’s List and even trophies for reading the most books in school. As I continued my education in middle school, I became aware that I was different, for students would tease each other as well as categorize themselves by ethnicity. They would use the words “wetback” or “beaner” when talking about Hispanics. I found this offensive because I myself was Hispanic. I chose to ignore those students and walk away because I knew they were just teasing. During high school those teasing words turned into something more powerful. I was unaware of my legal status until my freshman year of high school. At a very young age I knew education was important to me and that one day I would like to attend college. For that same reason, when I was a freshman I began looking into scholarships because I knew my family was not financially able to help me pay for school. As I filled out my first scholarship, I encountered a question I was not sure how to as or even understood what it was asking me: “Are you a US Citizen.” Not knowing the answer, I asked my counselor what the question was referring to, and she asked me to ask my parents for my social, and if I didn’t have one, that meant I wasn’t a citizen.
Asking my mother about my social was an awkward conversation; she didn’t know how to explain to me that we didn’t “belong” in this country. She explained that we had migrated from Mexico in July of 2000. I knew that I wasn’t born in the US, but I as a freshman was still unaware of what all of this meant. As the school year went on, more talk started to arise about my status in the country. I began to hear how I would not be able to obtain a job and would have to go to work in the fields. “Wetback” and “beaner” started to offend me more than what it used to. I became angry and frustrated at the fact that I had no control over my life anymore. My dreams about continuing my education seemed not to be as realistic as I imagined them when I was younger.
On August 15, 2012, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime, or so that’s how I saw it. I was now a junior in high school and getting closer to graduating high school. The program was presented to my siblings and me with an opportunity to advance in the US and we took it in a heartbeat. My brother now worked full time because he graduated high school back in 2010, and he saved money so my he, my sister, and I would be able to apply for the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. We hired a lawyer and paid $3,500 for all three of our applications. I waited anxiously by the mailbox every morning for a letter of approval. When three envelopes arrived, all three of us were so nervous and scared about their verdict. We left the envelope like it was filled with a secret price inside. I remember feeling something hard and card-like; I couldn’t wait any longer and ripped open the envelope as both my siblings watched. It was indeed my “Authorization for Employment” card. I was happy but at the same time disappointed: how could a piece of plastic decide whether I am able to work and stay in a country I’ve been in since I was five?
In 2013 I began to work, for I was tired of seeing my family having financial problems and I wanted to contribute as well. I would go to school during the day and work evenings. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to cover my expenses and help as much as I could. During senior year I began to apply for colleges and the question “Are you a US citizen” would appear on every application. I felt discouraged from even applying to any college; I felt less than everyone else. I was even unable to apply to some scholarships because I wasn’t a US citizen. How can a piece of paper make you feel so useless?
Even reapplying for the Dream Act Program labels me as “Applicant Alien Number.” It’s disappointing that after 18 years of living in this country I am still considered foreign. Although I had the status of being an AB540 student and although I didn’t have the encouragement of my family to continue my education, I never let that stop me from achieving my goal. I will now be graduating in December of 2018, and the feeling of accomplishment is worth every tear.
Due to this program, I have had the privilege to continue my education and will be graduating in December with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. I’ve had the opportunity to work multiple jobs, which has given me the ability to help my family financially. When I heard the Trump Administration wanted to cancel the program, I felt like my world was being torn apart around me. I felt anxious about what was to become of my future as well as my family’s. The thought of not being able live in a country I have been calling home for the past 18 years is petrifying. I had no clue what I could do or what could even be done to stop what was going to ruin so many young lives. As the verdict approached, I felt powerless and became depressed. I didn’t want to leave the country to live in a place I didn’t know about with people who might be family, but who feel more like strangers. The feeling of starting over like when I was five lingers in my mind.
I have accomplished more than I could have ever imagined because of the program and strive to do so much more. This December I will be the first person in all my immediate family to have graduated college, and as I receive my diploma, I will not only be achieving my dream, but I will also be showing that it is possible to strive in this country even if the status on your documents says, “Illegal Alien.”