Confessions from the Undocumented

Apr 27th, 2017 | By | Category: 2016-2017, Opinions

By Maria Sandana and Gonzalo Garcia Reyes

Something I was taught at a young age was the importance of not drawing attention to myself. It was important to stay invisible, to stay hidden, to stay out of danger. This was necessary to survive, but at the same time it was really damaging to my being.

Even now that I am open and vocal about my undocumented status, I still have this tendency to shelter myself. This fear is so embedded in who I am that it makes it difficult to exist and navigate through everyday life. I have my driver’s licence, but I refuse to drive out of fear of being pulled over.

It is frustrating for me when people who claim to support undocumented folks use our stories for their personal benefit. Simply because I have shared my story with you does not give you the authority to use it. If you want to practice better allyship, refrain from speaking for us and instead uplift our voices and stories. As folks who are undocumented, telling our stories is the only agency we get.

As part of my Take a Break trip on Immigrant Justice this past spring break, I visited the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. This detention center is built on a toxic superfund site, meaning that people should not be allowed to live there lawfully. And yet, this detention center houses 1,575 individuals. It was scary to think how this detention center, with its tall gray walls and chain link fences, disappears into plain sight, which in consequence makes all 1,575 people inside invisible.

I spent my spring break trying to process why my uncle had gotten deported. Half of it was trying to understand why he was arrested for being a PASSENGER in a speeding car when the driver didn’t even get a ticket. I was also trying to find out which detention center he was sent to. What were they going to do with him and how would he contact us if he was sent to Mexico?

One of my coworkers who is a minor was going to use someone’s ID to get into a bar. She asked me if I would ever do something like that. I told her I would probably get deported if I were caught doing something like that. I forgot the unspoken rule: we don’t talk about those things casually and I allowed the awkwardness to seep into the conversation. I don’t even know if she’s OK with immigrants and I outed myself. Fuck.

I was working in retail and one day I got a phone call from the HR lady saying that I may be ‘terminated’ from my job if I couldn’t prove my legal presence in the U.S. My two year permit was about to expire and U.S.C.I.S. hadn’t sent my renewed permit. I think it’s funny how some people in their 30s have the same license as when they were 18 or 16 because I’ve had to renew mine every two years.

Whenever I talk to my mom about being close with boys, part of her getting to know them is asking me if they have papers. It’s not that she is seeking out someone to get me citizenship, but it’s an important thing.

Currently, I am dating a citizen and a few of my mom’s friends ask why I haven’t married him yet to start the process to get my citizenship. There’s a really weird power dynamic in any relationship where someone is marrying an undocumented immigrant.

My boyfriend has offered to marry me in order to ensure my safety from deportation, but I don’t want to be indebted to someone in that way or have it used against me or for it to be an issue with his parents. The idea of owing someone my legal presence makes me uncomfortable, but sadly it’s a thing I will have to face eventually since there are very limited paths to citizenship in the U.S.

A Willamette Academy student was asking me if I was planning on studying abroad. I told her I was afraid to go out of the country for fear of not being allowed back into the country under this administration.

The lawyers who were presenting about DACA said that we were going to be safe during the Trump administration, that only criminals were going to be in danger of deportation. This is wrong in itself, but I have heard of numerous DACA recipients detained by ICE and at risk of being deported.

No one should live with the fear of being sent to another country against their will.

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