My earliest memories of this wonderful country I call home take place in New York, where my dad was in school working towards his Ph.D. Those memories mostly consist of times playing in our backyard, following around my big sister, and the occasional visit from my grandparents. When I was six, my family moved right into the heart of the mitten state where my dad had accepted a job offer at a university. When my sister and I graduated high school, we each went to a different college. I graduated debt-free with honors and a degree in secondary education. My sister played soccer all four years while also double-majoring. We also both met our husbands while in college and were married a few years later. We’re a pretty average family. And that’s what it means to be a Dreamer.
My dad has always loved learning. He studied in Guatemala, Mexico, and Japan, and then eventually received a Fulbright scholarship to study in New York. When we moved, we flew there on an airplane with our visas and passports in hand. While my dad studied full-time, he also worked second and third shifts to provide for our family. Despite the busyness of getting a Ph.D while working full-time, I vividly remember when he taught me to ride to a bike. I remember when he would chase my sister and me around the backyard. I remember the tickle fights we had and the games we played. Then he got a job offer to work at a university in Michigan. After we moved there, my dad was still the only one with a work visa for several years so he continued to work hard to provide for us – while my mom, my sister, and I followed the law and remained unemployed despite financial difficulties. Yet I remember how he spent his afternoons coaching my soccer team, and then refereeing, playing in men’s leagues, and even serving as the president of the soccer league that has served over 40,000 youths in the area. I remember the family nights we would have, “camping out” in our living room. I remember his endless patience, working through difficult math problems with me all the way through high school calculus. I have an academic and loving father and that’s what it means to be a Dreamer.
My mom did not speak any English when she moved to the US with my family. Despite this, all I’ve ever known her to be is involved in my life. She was there to pick me up and ready to hear every detail of my day after school. She was willing to make long commutes, bringing Spanish to families that might not otherwise had an opportunity to study the language, charging each student only $5/hr. She worked hard to help put my sister and me through college. She always kept our home open for my friends and me to have somewhere to go. She went to every soccer game, every parent-teacher conference, and every recital. She would move her schedule around so that she could pick me up from college once a week for lunch. She lived sacrificially to make the best life for my sister and me. She grew stronger and stronger in her faith every time she had to explain to my sister and I that our future and immigration status was still unresolved. I have a strong and devoted mother and that’s what it means to be a Dreamer.
My family has easily spent over $25k on the immigration system. We have paid thousands of dollars in lawyer fees, thousands of dollars for application fees, thousands of dollars to complete the necessary requirements. We have gone through years at a time of not being able to work due to revoked work visas. We have had medical examinations, pictures taken, and biometric appointments. We have driven hours to visit specialized lawyers, renew passports, and submit paperwork. We have spent days, weeks, and months waiting for responses to our petitions, even long after the promised response time-frame. We have built a home in the US and we’re working hard to keep it, and that’s what it means to be a Dreamer.
Image Source: Justin Lane, EPA via USA Today