Define American

Using the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation around citizenship


Passport to Heaven

| Anonymous

Everyone has a story and It seems like I have two- the real one and the superficial one. My story is lived by 2 million Americans- well, not so American. I am 24 years old and have been residing in the United States illegally since I was 8. This fact has shaped the way I have lived my life, but not the way I have dreamed about it. When I was 8, I was put on a plane from Colombia to Peru and was told I was going to see my mother who lived in the U.S.A. In Peru, I met a family that taught me a game where I had to learn everything about another little girl named Mayra. I was a dedicated student (I even skipped a grade back in Colombia) and I was determined to learn all her details- her grandparent's names, her favorite hobbies, the name of her school, etc. This came in handy when I was going through customs in the United States. You see, they told me that a group of gentlemen were going to ask me questions and I had to pretend I was Mayra. Let's just say I beat the game and got the best prize because I got to see my mom. Two things I remember are the happiness I felt to see her and the November snow- which was more beautiful than what I had dreamed it would be. Today, I can’t even remember the names of the people I was with or even any details on Mayra because all that was not important, it was just a game. On the biggest day of your life you don’t recognize that such day is it. Soon after my arrival, I started the fourth grade and took advantage of all the opportunities America offered me. In High School I was the main anchor of my school newscast, president of the modeling club, and I was involved in the history club and science club. Most importantly, or so I thought, I graduated top ten of my class. In actuality, the most important thing was my involvement in the science club with Mrs. Makar. I remember tearing when I told her I couldn't go to college because I couldn't afford it. She made a few calls and signed me up for some private scholarships. She also had connections at Rutgers University and spoke to them after my application had been sent. To this day, I am not sure if I got accepted by merit or because of Mrs. Makar. Either way, this wasn't a community college, this was so good, it was beyond my dreams. Reality hit me hard for the first time when the scholarships expired. I needed to provide them with a social to renew them. I could not get a job because I needed a social for that too. My mother, who raised me by herself, had two full time jobs during the week, and a job during the weekend. I remember every semester we were late on payment because it was really hard to come up with $10,000 for tuition. Somehow, God kept providing mom with the money and I just kept going. The last three semesters I had to do part-time and live at home. This meant a 3 hour commute to school since I could not get a license to drive (a bus, two trains, and bus again). But who cares? the commute was the smallest of my problems. I am very proud to say my degree is a Bachelor's of Science- my major was Exercise Science and Sport Studies and my minor, French. I am proud of it because social or not, no one can take this away from me. Now that I have told you the real story, let me tell you the superficial one. There weren't always two stories. I believe the division began once the real story became too embarrassing or too problematic for me. When I went to college, I couldn’t tell my roommates why I wasn't applying for FASFA , why I didn't drive, why I couldn't work, and why I kept changing my mind about my major. I became so good at answering these questions and always made a joke when asked. If someone asked me why I didn’t drive I would say I had nervous disorder and "its better for the world that I’m off the road", or that I was color blind and "you're looking a bit gray today". People knew I was joking but as long as you gave them an answer they didn't insist. Sometimes I would tell them the reason was because I was here illegally, but they thought that too was a joke. I didn't want to be different, or inspire pity, or meet someone that would be so mean and report me to the authorities. And I danced my way through college, literally. I made it to the Rutgers Ballroom Dance Team and became president during my last year. My sports director notified me that I couldn't be president because I wasn't a full time student at the time, but at the end she told me not to mention it and allowed me to go on. My closest friends are people I met on the team. People who never in a million years would think I am here illegally. I don't mean to lie to them and I have no idea how I have managed to cover it all up when I know my whole life revolves around this one issue. I guess I thought that something like the Dream Act would pass, the issue would be resolved, and I would never have to mention it at all. This illegal life is not the life I want to live, is the one I was forced to live. It just doesn't make sense- my mother is a naturalized US Citizen and my husband is a born US citizen and I thought there has to be a way for me to get my papers. But there isn't because there is no way for me to proof I came here with a visa. I am blogging today because I have time- something I never had before. The company I was working for was raided by ICE and I had to leave before I was caught and deported. This is the second time reality struck me and with mighty force. The day I lost my job was the scariest day of my life – those minutes when I thought everything I had worked for would be taken from me… But God's thoughts were definitely bigger than mine and believe me, this is something I keep forgetting. This day brought a lot more than what it took. You see, nothing can bring you closer to God like the scariest day of your life. What I had to do wasn't to give up on my dreams; it was simply to change them. Even though I have always dreamed big, God has provided for me even bigger things- my husband, my health, my family, my college experience, and a story worth blogging about. My dreams have drifted from wanting a passport of the United States to wanting a passport to heaven. Everyone has a story and today I felt my undocumented story needed to be documented.
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