I fight to be who I want to become

Ireri biking to the US Social Forum, Chicago to Detroit. Photo by Isaac

My name is Ireri and I’m undocumented.

I came to the U.S. in April of 1994 when I was seven years old with my mother, father and sister.

As soon as we arrived, my mother enrolled my sister and me in various activities. I learned how to swim, how to play piano, and I learned English. But I also learned how much exclusion hurts when you don’t speak the same language as everybody else or know the same games. I made a promise to myself that from then on I would make sure everyone around me felt welcome, whether in playground games or in life.

When I went to college, I dreamed of being a teacher, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to be certified. Instead, to fulfill my desire to teach, I joined an art collective, and while I taught kids how to make bracelets, more than that I taught them how to learn from each other.

I dream of traveling, but I know if I left, I probably would never be able to return. I dream of doing graduate work abroad, but I can’t, for the same reason. I would have liked to study to become a teacher, but I didn’t because I wouldn’t be able to be certified. I think about studying medicine, but I know I wouldn’t be able to practice. I think about volunteering at a public garden, but I don’t have the time, because taking a break to stop trying to change immigration law is not an option.

Laws based on enforcement and criminalization are trying to break me apart and I will not let them. I will fight to break them. I will fight to be who I want to become, and for everyone to have that right.

So I’m working to change the law. My time and life are interrupted by the immigration laws that criminalize and negate my contributions and the contributions of my community. All day long, everything I encounter reminds me of my status.

Political inaction means more lost hopes, more suicides, more exclusion, and more feeling unwanted in a place so many of us call home.

I have lived here, taught here, learned here, and dreamt here for 16 years. I won’t wait anymore to continue building my life.


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