I'm helping a friend with a paper they're writing and these are some questions she asked.
1. How old were you when you arrived in the US?
~ I was seven years old. I had a cousin who was the same age as me, so my uncle and aunt told me that I needed to pretend to be him so we could get across. They had me memorize their names and answers to questions in case border patrol asked. I slept through the whole thing and when I woke up, I was in East L.A. the next day.
2. When did you find out you were undocumented?
~ I knew I was undocumented from day one because of the way I came in. Growing up and going to school, there was a stigma placed on the term “papeles” or papers, referring to having legal documentation that you are in the country legally. Through out school, I would always pretend to have papers and bluff my way out of conversations that inquired about my status. My parents also lectured my sisters and I to not let anyone know we don’t have papers, almost as if it was telling people we had a horrible disease. This went on through out my life.
3. Did you feel that college was an option for you when you were growing up?
~ There was a certain point in which I did because that’s what teachers tried to instill in kids. Go to college and be a doctor or something, always asking that general question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It wasn’t until junior high and high school that I started to become more self-aware of what my possibilities were and what I was able to do, giving my situation. With out real support from my family or peers, I gave up on going to college because I didn’t think I was smart enough and because at the time, I didn’t know undocumented students could go to college.
4. Why didn't you go to college immediately after high school?
~ I went to four different high schools in four years, I didn’t care about my education beyond graduating and the school didn’t either. After high school I spent three years working with my family working a hot dog, fruit and shaved ice cart in various parts of L.A. until we found a spot in East L.A. Later on when I was working at a skateboard shop, through the encouragement of the owner, I decided to go back to school.
5. What would the DREAM Act do for you?
~ Change my life for the better. I would be able to legally work, drive, own property, pay taxes and have a better quality of life. Psychologically and emotionally I would be a happier person because I wouldn’t be dealing with personal issues of doubt and unworthiness. It would mean that going to a University is achievable because I would have a good job that would allow me to pay for my tuition and maybe take loans out. I would qualify for scholarships, internships and academic programs that will help me in my career. It would mean that I would not be hiding and suffering in the shadows because of what my status means. No more living in fear of being deported and having some normalcy in my life.
6. What is your major in school, and what is your panned profession? Why?
~ I’m a Journalism major at East Los Angeles College. Might minor or double major in Chicano Studies if things go well. For the moment I have no real long-term goals beyond becoming a freelance writer and/or getting a paid position at a newspaper or magazine. Blogging online has gotten me a reputation for bringing local news to my community and I hope to be able to make a living off it in the future. The success I have found online is because of my passion for writing. That and I’m a big loud mouth who like to know everything and tell everyone everything, which makes me a perfect journalist. I have an easier time writing than in any other medium. I love the rush of getting a story, talking to people; writing it and having people form opinions of it. I have come to a balanced point in my writing and life in which I let my writing take me places, rather than me taking it somewhere else.
7. Where would you like to be, or where in life do you imagine you would be were it not for your undocumented status? What opportunities do you feel you have missed as a result of your situation?
~ It’s a double edge sword that hangs over your head like a damocles dagger. One the one hand, I have developed personally beyond anything I could ever imagine. My situation has given me a view on life than not many people get to see and in turn, humbled me and made me a stronger individual. I have perseverance and ambitions that are fueled by my experiences and I am able to offer a different perspective on everyday happenings from my point of view. I would not be the person I am if it wasn’t for being undocumented. At the same time it is a burden that can cripple and break a person down if they do not have the proper support system. Being undocumented means that you live in the shadows and that has a lot of psychological ramifications that range from severe depression to apathy. Given the clarity I have found throughout the years, I am happy to be where I am and the situation I have placed myself in. Ideally I would like to have legal status, but until that happens, I make the best of the situation. I can’t picture myself doing anything else beyond what I’m doing now. Even though I have missed out on opportunities to travel and have a “normal” life, I have gained much more than I have lost through the people I have met, events I have attended and the infinite possibilities still available in the near future.