My Immigration StoryShare on Twitter Share on Facebook
When I was younger, I lived with my grandparents while my parents traveled to other Mexican states to find work. My little brother and I viewed our grandparents as our second parents. When I was six, my parents left for the United States in search of better economic opportunities, and at the age of 11, my parents decided to bring me to the United States. I wasn’t able to say goodbye to my grandparents before I left for the United States, which was hard for me. I was more scared of leaving them than going to a new country.
Unfortunately, my little brother was too young to make the dangerous border crossing, so he stayed behind in Mexico with my grandparents. I can still remember the last time I saw my brother. I thought I would see him again soon, but I haven’t seen him in nine years. The whole trip to the United States was full of memories, uncertainty, and sorrow. We drove to Mexico City and then flew to Hermosillo, where a van was waiting for us. We spent three days in a house in the middle of nowhere, too scared to leave. Finally, it was time for us to start our journey across the border. We were given two water bottles for adults and one for children, plus a few cans of tuna and corn. The light of the moon was our only ally. I do not know if it's just my imagination, but I have never seen the moon as bright as I saw it on those nights.
I remember that one warm evening when we started walking across the border. The silence of the desert warned us of the danger we faced, and we knew we had to be very careful. My parents advised me not to stray away from them. The minutes passed like hours and we didn't seem to be getting anywhere.
We quickly ran out of water and food. The only thing we found was an irrigation canal in the middle of the desert. We could hear barking dogs and the mooing of cows, as if there was a farm nearby. Everybody started to fill his or her bottles with water from that river. Our only filter was a piece of cloth that my dad ripped off from his shirt. When we were drinking it, we could feel and taste the earth. We did not care though; all we wanted was to quench our thirst.
Three days later, we finally arrived in Arizona. By the time we arrived, many of us had our feet full of sores, and many of us were also dehydrated. From Arizona, we traveled to Los Angeles by car—nine people squeezed into a car meant for four. Upon arriving to Los Angeles, we caught a flight to New York, which became my new home.
My arrival in New York City was a dream come true. It was like being in a world for giants. There were skyscrapers everywhere, but I was always afraid of what could happen next. Here, I had to learn a new language and adapt to a different culture. The saddest thing, however, was living without my grandparents and brother.
School for me was an obstacle! My parents didn’t want to send me to school because they were full of fear and lacked information about our right to a K-12 education. They thought that undocumented immigrants were not allowed in schools; it took more than a year before I finally began my studies in this country.
While I went to school, I watched my parents work seven days a week in order to provide everything for us at home. They gave me the strength I needed to overcome any barriers, and I dedicated all my academic achievements to them. A grade of 90 in any subject or test was not enough for me, because I knew they were doing everything they could so that I could study. Because of them, I never felt like I was lacking anything.
A few years went by, and in 2011, the news that I hoped to never hear arrived: my grandfather had died. I knew that I could not go back to Mexico and say a last goodbye to the person who raised me due to my immigration status. The most painful thing was seeing my father collapse and cry. Event worse, while not yet having recovered from the loss of my grandfather, my father found out that my grandmother had cancer. On January 1, 2012, we received word that my grandmother had died.
My father was inconsolable. The only thing that he thought about was going back to Mexico and seeing his mother. He seemed to have forgotten about his dreams and goals. He seemed to forget that he wanted to have his own business in this country so that he could work without being exploited. My mother planned to be a housewife and was hoping to bring my brother to the United States. The only thing that they wanted was to have a happy and united family.
After my grandmother's death, my parents made the hardest decision of their life: they decided to return to Mexico to take care of my younger brother. Once again, my family was separated. My mother knew that I could have a better education and work opportunities in the U.S., so I decided to stay.
It has been two years since I’ve seen my mom and dad. During these years, they have missed my high school graduation and many other important moments of my life. It has been nine years since I last saw my brother. There have been many times in the last few years when I wanted to hear my mother say, "Antonio, here am I. I am your mother!" During the seven years I lived with my mom, it seems like we only had a few precious moments together because she was always working to provide for the family.
As I write this story, hundreds of people (and in many cases children) are being separated from their families. I am a DREAMer who wants to clean the dust that has accumulated on the values and rights granted by the Constitution of the United States. I am a DREAMer who seeks respect for the rights of every human being, regardless of color, religion, sexual orientation, or immigration status. I am a DREAMer who fights for the respect of my parents’ rights, those rights that were never respected when they were living here. I fight for immigration reform that would benefit my community; the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in this country, the ones that see it as the land of freedom and opportunities, and the ones that work hard to bring economic and social benefits to the United States of America. This is the time to pass immigration reform so that families like mine can be reunited and can travel to see their loved ones whenever they want.
My fight to reunite with my family is currently being documented in "Indivisible", a film directed by Hilary Linder, and I want to invite you to watch our trailer and help us raise the resources needed to share this story, and so that I can continue sharing my story of family separation with others. My passion for immigration reform for our communities is fueled by the challenges my family and I have faced in the United States. I want to thank United We Dream and Make the Road New York for helping me fight for reform and for families. The time for justice is now!