I was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco. I came to the United States when I was about 2 years old in 1995. I came here because my parents wanted to provide my brothers and I with a chance for a better life.
My father was already in the US at the time, but my mom and two brothers lived in Mexico. He worked here and sent us money back home. Eventually, he made arrangements for us to become permanent residents. My mom brought us all over to the US as soon as she could.
I was only about 2 at the time, so I didn’t have a reason per se. However, my family came over here because there was work here and better schools. I adjusted pretty well since I was so young. It was a lot more difficult for my mom than anyone else because she had to leave her entire family behind. My father’s mom and siblings came over here too so he seemed to be fine. The biggest hurdle for us was the language barrier. My oldest brother had to translate letters and important documents for my parents because he was the first one to learn English in school.
Part of living as an immigrant is that you never have the guarantee of keeping your family together. Even being here legally, getting in legal problems can result in deportation. My father was an alcoholic and constantly struggled with trying to get sober. When you’re an immigrant, there’s not a lot of help you can get. He got arrested for driving while drunk more than once and eventually had his resident status revoked. Things got hard for my family once he was deported, but adversity only brought us closer together. My two brothers had to work while still in high school in order to support the family.
I was fortunate to have my family provide the support they did. Even when I was old enough to work, my brothers still supported me and encouraged to focus on school rather than help them pay bills. Because of that I was able to be the first in my family to attend a University. I am now a Computer Science major and only a semester away from graduation.
I just recently obtained citizenship. It was not particularly a difficult process since there was so much information available online. As for the interview part, many of the questions I was required to study were things learned in history class in elementary and high school. They give applicants a booklet with all the questions they are required to study for free. The booklet even comes with a CD that contains the audio version of the questions. There are also flash cards available online for studying. So that part wasn’t difficult at all for me.
A minor challenge was that you don’t get a say in when you set up your appointments. After sending the required fee, forms and documents, you get a letter telling you that you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. You have an option to reschedule, but you still won’t get to pick the day or time. As a student, I work and go to school so keeping these appointments meant having to miss class. I can imagine others who work full time or don’t have a reliable form of transportation would have a hard time with this part of the process.
I was born in San Luis Potosi, SLP Mexico. I came to the United States when I was 14 years old in 1978. Like many, I came here to help my family back home.
I came here illegally. I swam across the river. It was horrible, because it was the first black ice that covered that night. I walked in the woods for 4 days and 4 nights. When I was thirsty, I would drink any source of water I would find, even if it were urine. I had nothing else to drink or eat. I had to walk during the night because that was the only time where no one could see us. I eventually made it to my destination where I would soon discover more hardship.
I came from a big and poor family of 10 brothers and sisters. I was the third youngest out of all my brothers and sisters and the only one to come to the United States. I knew I had to come to the United States to help them out. I needed to help my father and mother to pay for the house and many other things back at home. I remember watching my mother wash our clothes on top of a rock because we didn’t have a washer, I couldn’t help but be frustrated seeing that and other things. My first goal was to buy my mother a washer and the second was to help my father with the family.
When it was Christmas, I remember seeing my friends play with toys they got as gifts, while my family had nothing. When I got to the United States, my uncle gave me stamps to send $5 to my family, which back then equals to 3 pounds of eggs in SLP. I sent my family money every Christmas so that my mother could buy gifts for my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and even to buy a piñata so that she could invite the neighborhood kids over so they could have a sense of belonging. I didn’t want them to feel the way I felt as a kid to receive nothing on Christmas.
How was it living here back then? It was hard. I came here during the worst season. It snowed a lot and I didn’t know anyone but my uncle. I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know where to go, what to do… but I told myself that if I’m here in the states I’m going to take advantage and work hard and give my family everything I couldn’t have. So, I learned the language by speaking to people because I didn’t have time to go to school, I had to work.
I started working at a hotel washing dishes, but I only worked there for a month. I told myself I could do better so I looked at getting better positions. I moved up to housekeeping and then I told myself I could do something better and did maintenance and engineering. I then noticed that I could get better money as a banquet server so I automatically applied and worked at different hotels doing just that. It was really hard at first because of the language barrier. I remember my first task was to ask everyone if they wanted coffee and serve them. In doing this, I accidentally mistook one of my bosses as someone important and I was able to learn from that mistake. Sometimes, I had to sleep in the hotel laundry because I didn’t have any sort of transportation to make it on time the next day. It wasn’t exactly the best of times, but I knew it would all be worth it just to know that my family at home wasn’t suffering anymore.
Inclusive, I was hit by yet another wall. When my parents passed away, I couldn’t visit their funeral or grave because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to come back. I took off work without notice because I just couldn’t handle the situation at hand. I got fired. It took me about 3 months to find another job. That’s when I started working as a cook in the grill. People around me kept telling me to apply to be manager because I had the diligence and skills to be one. However, in order to be manager, I knew they were going to ask for my documents. Everyone insisted and wanted to give me the position, but I was too afraid to take that step so I just told them I didn’t want it and give it to someone else. I knew I had to do something about my situation.
Soon after that, I went to go see a lawyer and that lawyer told me to bring everything to see an immigration officer. When I brought everything he basically left me stranded with the immigration officer and left me $2000 less. It wasn’t until later that the lawyer I believed could solve my case was accused of robbing many other undocumented natives and making up lies in other cases. The second time I tried to get an interview with immigration I had a woman accuse me of fraud because everything the previous lawyer had been accused of was thought of being falsified on my paperwork. She made me sign paperwork stating that everything I had filled out prior to my interview was a lie. She threatened me and told me that if I didn’t sign the paperwork my family and I would have been deported. I lost all hope after this situation. What kept me going was having faith in god and knowing that everything would be okay.
I eventually found a lawyer who believed my case could be resolved. He helped me obtain my permit and then my residency, but I sure had to suffer a lot before receiving either. I couldn’t apply to many jobs because I was “illegal” even if I knew I could do the job better than the next. I had to work as a cook, making little pay, but it was enough to survive. However, after I became legal, I started working at different places and started receiving better pay. Now, I’ve applied to be a citizen and have to wait 5 years to be able to obtain it.
I’ve been working since I was 14… I’m now 50 and still working hard for my own kids and wife. It’s still hard because now I have my own payments to pay for by myself. The job market is hard due to so much competition. In order to keep up with my bills, I have to work many jobs. I tell my kids that if I leave anything behind it would be their education. It’s the best investment to leave them because everything else could be replaced. I know they’ll be prepared the rest of their life because they will have an education. Knowing that, working all these jobs doesn’t feel as bad.