“I came to the United States when I was four years old. We followed my father who had come here earlier, to earn money to sustain us. We have lived in the United States for 24 years, but are still undocumented. Going to the US is one of my earliest memories. I remember being on a bus and then the river – now I know that was the Rio Grande. I had gotten new shoes just before, and was worried I would get them dirty. I was on a plank tied to a giant tire. I was not really scared, more excited to go see my dad – my mum made me focus on that. She must have been so scared.
This was a journey that really shaped who I would become, but of course at the age of four, I had no idea. I have never been back to Mexico, I grew up here, went to school. I was raised as an American with Mexican roots. Yet, there is so much disagreement with me being in this country that I never quite know where I belong. I think I’m too American for Mexico and too Mexican for the US.
I remember one day I was in the laundry room with my mother when a man entered and yelled at her that she shouldn’t speak Spanish and all sorts of abuse. She did know what he said roughly, but asked me to translate. I didn’t, I wanted to protect her. That’s the thing: As a child in this situation you learn the language faster than an adult, so you feel like you should protect your parents. My parents tried their best to avoid these situations, but after all it happened, and made me more resilient as a person.
Growing up it was never at the forefront that I had no papers, my parents shielded me from that. Yet, there were these situations, when I could do whatever I wanted, I could not get into a certain cheerleading contest or something, because I had no social security number – but of course I didn’t even understand what that was. I am now of the age that my dad was when he came here, to sustain his family. My mum and dad never saw their own parents again. I wonder could I make this sacrifice.
I am very grateful to my parents. I know they had it hard, people were exploiting them, not paying them for their work. Yet, they don’t regret, they always say it was worth it, doing it for me and my brother. So, I want to fight for the rights of my parents and people like them. Now, of course things are difficult. I was always frightful when people knocked on the door. But then I think about my parents, who came here, for a better life for their children, not knowing what was expecting them, and they conquered that fear. I feel uncertainty. I don’t know where my parents or I will be next Christmas.
To me migration is a necessity and just natural. Animals do it all the time. Sadly though, a lot of people fear the unknown. I always thought the United States where a beacon of hope in this regard, and after all, I still do.”
This is a story by Christine Strotmann