“I’ve been silent for 20 years — but I can’t be anymore.”

By Laura, Colorado

I was born in Mexico, and I grew up in poverty. I remember it was always a struggle just to get by. When I was born, my parents were teenagers — and with them being young, I remember it wasn’t a very steady home. I was obsessed with American culture; I dreamed of growing up in Hollywood, because I idolized American movies. That’s what I had to look up to.

We had a family crisis and my mother ended up leaving us. That’s when my father decided that it would be a better future for us to move to America. At that time, to get a visa you had to prove you had a certain income, had money in your bank account, had properties — all things we didn’t have. That’s why we decided to just walk here.

I was 13 when I came here, and even then I could see that the opportunities were so much greater here.

I didn’t realize then how difficult it was to be undocumented. I never talked to anyone about it, so it was a big shock for me in 2012 when people came out of the shadows when President Obama instituted DACA to protect undocumented immigrant youth across the country like me. It was life-changing for me, because I had never confronted the issue — I had just learned to stay in hiding all the time. I had never expected I’d come out and tell my truth. I could lose everything.

When I realized how scary it was to be undocumented, that I could be jailed, I decided I wanted to go back to Mexico. I was still really confused about my purpose here and whether or not there was a place for me. But Mexico wasn’t home, my life was in the United States — I was already married and had a family — and I can’t just uproot the kids from our country, their lives, and the future that is rightfully theirs.

So now I’m stuck. It’s hard to find the right place to raise my family. This is why I’m now telling my story to as many people as possible — because I feel really trapped. Even if I wanted to go, I can’t; if I tried to find a legal path, it’s also not accessible — due to the circumstances of my entry, I’d have to leave to wait for processing by a system that’s so broken, I may never make it back.

When I realized just how dangerous of a position I was in as an undocumented person, I became depressed and considered running away. My hope was that things would just get better, we’d find some path to legalization. But since the new administration arrived, I haven’t been able to sleep. I’m constantly stressed, constantly depressed. It’s a struggle to live life normally knowing that I could be separated from my children at any time, knowing that my family or friends could be taken away, too.

It makes me nervous to show up to events organized to stand up against anti-immigrant policies, but I feel nervous all the time anyway. Standing up and showing my face is risky, but maybe less so than if I never show my face at all — if no one knows about people like me, it could be that much easier for this administration to just wipe us away like nothing ever happened. The level of stress that I’m feeling is telling me that I have to do something about this situation.

We live in a systematically oppressive system. I see that now. I don’t feel like the bad guy now, like I did when I was growing up. It’s time to take responsibility for my actions, but I have to expose the truth, which is that I’m not here to cause crimes. I came because I was extremely poor and struggling. And so were my parents.

I have nothing to hide.

I’ve been silent for 20 years. What we need right now is to have these conversations, even if they’re hard.

So I’m doing what I can, every day. I’m trying to have conversations with my neighbors and lots of people with different points of view but who want to learn. There’s a lot of misinformation out there — I want people to be able to meet those of us who are undocumented, ask their questions, hear from us what it’s like and why we’re here. They need to see the human being in front of them, not just hear the stereotypes. I’m also writing a children’s book right now — a know-your-rights children’s book. Kids need to be protected, too.

Originally published at www.ofa.us.