My Mother, the Warrior

by Nestor Ruiz

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will make a decision — to take up a case that will decide the future livelihood of my mother.

Meet my mother, Rebeca Figueroa Ontiveros. She immigrated to the United States from Mexico on June 24, 1999. She came to the U.S. and brought me and my siblings to reunite with her husband and my father after spending many years apart.

Sadly, due to a broken tail light, my father received a traffic ticket that led to his deportation in July, 2006. Despite this, and the unjust immigration system that continues to try and destroy my family, we continue to be resilient.

Today, my family lives in Plant City, Florida. We’re a tight-knit family that includes my grandfather and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. My mother is now the proud grandmother of 7 children and to support her family, she’s worked in farm factories, housekeeping, and daycare. She is also an active community member through her church and she finished her GED. My mother is the definition of a go-getter and she has fought tooth and nail for her family.

She is the reason I chose to join thousands of other undocumented youth to participate in the movement that got us some measure of relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Although it was the first time I had ever been politically involved, I was able to witness the collective power of undocumented youth.

It was through that same power and hunger for dignity that we would win another round of relief with the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program. My mother, along with other parents, rode from Tampa, Florida to Washington, DC as part of the United We Dream #WeCantWait campaign to make our voices heard.

On November 20, 2014, we finally won DAPA. I watched my mother as she listened to President Obama’s announcement and learned she could qualify for the program. She would no longer have to worry about being deported and now she would finally be able to pursue her dreams.

Our excitement was quickly shattered the moment we heard that the Attorney General for the state of Texas would challenge our victory in the courts. Until now, this has kept my mother from getting the relief she needs.

However, my mother and I are ready to continue fighting. Everyday, she tells me that the biggest and scariest hurdle she faces is the uncertainty in her life. Despite this, we dream that someday we will be able to live freely and in peace without fearing deportation and separation. She hopes to be able to practice her profession as a surgery nurse.

I know that whether or not the Supreme Court decides to take on this lawsuit, we will win in the end. My mother is a warrior, and I fight alongside her.

There’s a lot at stake — and we will not go back in the shadows.