“You broke the ocean in half to be here. Only to meet nothing that wants you.”
“immigrant”, Nayiraah Waheed
WORDS: LAURA HERNANDEZ | ART: NUSHA ASHJAEE
My mami tells me a story of something I would do in particular when I was younger that she still recalls.
She says that every time she would scold me for doing something naughty I would tug at her and ask her over and over “pero, todavia me quiere, verdad?” – “but you still love me, right?” I needed to be reminded in that moment that despite making her upset, that she still loved me. I needed so badly my mami’s affirmation of love – without it, I’d probably be heartbroken.
I came to the U.S. at the age of 3 with my mami and 3 sisters. The oldest 5 the youngest 9 months. My papi came first and begged my mami to stay. He needed to get a better job to provide for us but my mami did not listen. She wanted her family to be together. I didn’t understand that I was undocumented until I was in high school when I saw all of my friends getting their driver’s permits and questioning why I wasn’t able to do that. I finally understood it when I was accepted to attend a pilgrimage to Italy and my parents had to explain to me that despite being accepted I could not go because if I went I could not return to the U.S Being told that you meet all the requirements, that you are smart enough, that you worked for something but are undeserving because you don’t have a simple piece of paper. That has to do something to your human psyche. My heart was shattered. It has been like that most of my life- a sad reality that you learn to accept.
When my papi and mami crossed the border they gave me the opportunity to be able to cross many personal borders in my own life.
It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally saw a silver lining. I was eligible to apply for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) a program implemented by the Obama administration. It was perfect timing because I was just graduating high school and it gave me the hope to go to college although it wasn’t going to be easy. I am now the first in my family to attend college and the decision of the rescission of the DACA program could not have been worse timing. DACA allowed me the ability to work and to be able to pay off my schooling by having multiple jobs at a time. Many do not know that DACA recipients are ineligible to apply for government aid and student loans. So many, like myself, have had to pay out of pocket or depend on scholarships. Now I am a senior in college and have no idea if I’ll be able to finish off my last year given the recent changes to this program. There are no words to describe what I felt that day- the morning of the announcement. The morning everything I had been holding onto was snatched from me. No pre-warning could have prepared me enough for this news. I couldn’t even cry. I thought to myself the future I was so sure of – the one I planned and worked so hard, for now, seemed to be slipping from me. I had no control. Or that was how it felt at that moment when the President of the United States decided to rescind the DACA program.
I tell my anecdote of the time when I was younger how I would ask my mom if she still loved me because now I’m older and no longer the little girl who questions my parents’ love. Because what parent that doesn’t love their child would sacrifice their lives to be able to provide them with a more promising future? What parent that doesn’t love their child would sacrifice 20 years of not being able to see their loved ones and to be able to be there for their own parents when they departed this earth? When my papi and mami crossed the border they gave me the opportunity to be able to cross many personal borders in my own life.
They left everything behind, memories, their parents, their families, their home only to live in a country that deems them criminals for doing so.
They are also the Dreamers – the ones that never gave up and continue to uplift us during these times knowing that they’ve been through the storm and survived. And believing that we will too.
They prepared us for this. They instilled in us the courage, the resolve and the passion to fight and to not give up. We look at our parents during these times because they showed us that in this country trabajamos, luchamos y sobrevivimos. Y que si se puede.