Trapped in a golden cage

I would be lying if I said that because I am undocumented my life has been a shithole, and that prior to my involvement in the immigration movement I found myself suffering a great deal. When I was younger I didn’t believe I was less fortunate. I wasn’t unhappy, and although some doors continue tightly shut many others have opened. I never believed I was less than anyone else, in any aspect. Actually, I believed the complete opposite. I think I was a pretty good kid, a pretty good student, friend, daughter, sister and lover. I was really good at being happy and being optimistic.

I walked through life untouched by reality, but then I got to high school and my life literally changed. It was here that my views on my life, past present and future came crashing down. My sophomore year I was introduced to a community service club, ‘Building with Books.’ The issues the club and organization focused on were a calling to me. I became interested in travel. I wanted to help build schools in Mali. And then I wanted to journey into Peru and see Machu Pichu and visit the ancient pyramids in Mexico and travel to little villages in Poland. I wanted to be an explorer of the world. I wanted to take my studies of old and new cultures to the next level. I wanted to see the places and people I studied in books. I really wanted to learn about my heritage and my country.

The knowledge I acquired through this club and my history classes heightened my thirst for travel and education. Never before did I want to do so much with my life and my time, but it was my secret. I didn’t want to express so much interest in something that deep down I knew I would not be able to accomplish.

I remember talking to my parents about hypothetical situations. “If I could, would you let me go to Africa?” I would ask. “Of course!” my parents would reply. It’s kind of funny how I would play make-believe with my parents. But the reality was that I couldn’t travel to Europe. I couldn’t even go back to where I was born. I remember lying to my close friends in high school about visiting Mexico when I was in fifth grade when in fact I had not been to Mexico in over a decade.

As my father had told me, ‘estabamos viviendo en una jaula de oro,’ I was trapped in a golden cage. There was so much to do and so so much to see, but as an undocumented person I could not and would not be able to do many things I aspired. I not only hid in the shadows as an undocumented student, I hid my dreams. I stopped going to Building with Books, I stopped looking into colleges, and I stopped dreaming. Before this point in my life I would argue that anything was possible. Since then I’ve been through a rollercoaster of emotions and opinions.

And then last year in December, IYJL worked on a campaign to stop the deportation of Rigo Padilla. We succeeded, and now I say, an immigration reform is possible. I can reclaim that part of my identity I lost 17 years ago. I can go to a four year university where I’ll meet and make friends from all over the world. I can travel even further than the places I still dream of. I can join the Peace Corp., I can visit the places I’m learning about in my Latin American studies class. I can see my extended family members and bring roses to the grave of my beloved grandmother who raised me when I was a child. To society I am a minority in every sense of the word.

I am an undocumented queer Latina but today I refuse to stay in the shadows. I refuse to accept that I will never see my family again. I refuse to believe that change is not possible. I am an undocumented student and I refuse to be silenced. Today, I am fighting for my right to be free and truly be happy.


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