Believing in the Future

Posted by on October 05, 2013.

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Background

Jose arrived to the United States with his twin brother when he was 6 years old to get medical treatment and to be reunited with his mother and newborn sister. After his medical treatment finished, he didn’t know he had overstayed his visa. It was until he was a teenager that he realized his undocumented status, in the midst of a family crisis where his mother was a victim of domestic violence. After his mother escaped the abusive relation, she was detained and deported, leaving Jose and his twin brother behind. Jose was finally placed in a foster home because his family didn’t have the resources to take care of him.

Still in high school and with no family, Jose became aware that his only chance to have a dream after graduating was through the DREAM Act. But fortunately he was able to apply for legalization due to his peculiar family situation. Jose became a U.S. permanent resident late last year, and for the first time is allowed to dream about plans after school and to bring his mother back to live with him and his brother. After graduating from high school, Jose is doing his first semester at Florida International University and living on his own.

Jose's Story

I landed at Miami International Airport in Batman pajamas, 6 years of age, bursting with anticipation to be reunited with my mother and my new-born sister.

I came to this country to get medical treatment. Looking back, it’s hard to know if the gain from finding my mother again outweighed the reality that I had to leave my father behind, never to see him again. My mother watched over me as I received the medical attention that I required then, and somewhere in the midst of all the doctor visits I never realized that I had overstayed my temporary medical visa.

Government documentation is pretty far beyond the tangible reality of a six-year old; I just had to learn English for the world to start feeling normal again. It didn't really become uncomfortable enough for me to notice I was undocumented until I started being told "no, you cannot drive", "you cannot work for us", "you're not allowed to keep living here." It was hard to hear that I didn't belong or wasn't wanted in the United States when my only memories of Nicaragua had already become so faint and distant to me. "America" was the greatest adventure I was ever able to undertake in my Batman pajamas. Where could anyone expect me to go, if this wasn't my home?

The adventure became more complicated as I began growing up and having to face my villains. Unfortunately though, it became clear very quickly that cartoons don't really accurately convey the pain of being physically beaten, or of watching my mom fall victim to domestic violence while I was still too small to be able to stop it.

First, we were separated from my precious sister. Then, my brother and I lost our mother. I guess I missed the Batman episode where the police officers you thought would protect you actually show up to detain your mother for being an immigrant, and helping to send her back to Nicaragua. It feels awful, the saddest part was that we were never given the opportunity to say goodbye because we lacked the proper documentation to step foot inside immigration detention centers.

I've had to keep believing that somehow there is still hope. It is hard to live on your own. It is difficult to not have your parents to tuck you in at night or to remind you that you are still loved. Still, somehow I managed to convince myself that it can't be impossible for a child to survive. I know I will be reunited with my mom again one day -we overcame this obstacle once before. I know I can reclaim the dignity that was stripped from me in the dehumanization that happened when I was labeled an "illegal". I lost many things, but I also gathered many invaluable gifts. The gift of life makes us stronger, wiser, more courageous, and sympathetic. Life gives us the opportunity to lead and to model goodness for others. I find joy in reflecting that I can be proud of who I am and how I overcame the setbacks of an undocumented student, against every odd.

I am the child of a beautiful nation of rich culture. I am the son of the woman that taught me never to keep my head down and to never give up. I am the leader that believes in the hope and promise of his community. I do what I can to contribute to a people's led immigrant rights movement. I'm eager to continue connecting with others who share in this vision and this passion to help others, less fortunate, to get ahead.

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