Jan 10, 1990. It's unusually cold here tonight in the arid town of San Miguel, Oaxaca. There's apparently no soap to wash me, so I'm laid to rest on my mother's stomach (as we sleep together for the first time) to keep the ants away. From what I'm later told, only my grandmother was present to aid my mother in the delivery.
Spring 1992. My mother and father left today, they plan to work for one year in New York and then return.
Spring 1993. There's been a change of plans, after a year of separation our father has returned to take my older sister and me across the border and to our new home in New York. We cross the border somewhere in Arizona, the three of us, with our aunt. Looking back, I can't remember a time when I didn't live with my parents, but I did, anyways, I’m glad our family is together again.
Fall 1994. With much anticipation, I’ve begun school. I’m actually too young to enter kindergarten at four, but my mom submitted a forged Mexican birth certificate. For the next 13 years by birthday will be December 10, 1989. My sister began her elementary school career last year, and can't stop talking about it. Lastly, although my thoughts, wishes, and entire vocabulary are in Spanish, I’m not too worried about my ignorance of the English language.
1995-1996. I’m now fluent in English, somewhere around this time my imagination and dreams were translated entirely into English, and will remain in that language, I don't mind the loss too much, I just find it peculiar.
Winter 1999. I’ve begun my application process into the district's magnet school; apparently my standardized test scores were barely good enough to make me a candidate.
Spring 1999. After an entrance exam and an interview I’ve been accepted into Mott Hall, next fall I’ll be entering the 5th grade in a new school.
Fall 2002. I lied to my lab supervisor at the local community college where I’ve started to do research in order to fulfill my community service requirement. I told him my parents vote in New York, it's a small lie, to be sure, I’m just not a good liar is all....
Winter 2003. I’ve been granted admission to Deerfield academy; I forgot to tell you that I’ve been taking extra courses outside of school in preparation for boarding school. I can't begin to assess how much my life will change after these four years, I haven't really thought much about it really, my conscience is clear knowing that this is a really good school.
September 2003. We rolled into Deerfield, Massachusetts, on a quiet and perfectly still fall morning. The beauty of this dainty town almost hurts you. Though I’m miles away from the world of “crosswalks,
concrete, and cranes,” I don't feel too out of place. My first year dorm - well actually house - John Williams, is older than our nation, and our dorm parent, Mr. Brush seems to be as well.
Summer 2006. During my first week at my first internship I received a call from the Prep for Prep intern coordinator. As expected, the digits I submitted as my social security number are not valid and so my stipend will be delayed. I was upset at first but I know that this experience will prove of value whether I’m paid or not. I was mainly startled, if you want to know the truth, I wasn't expecting any calls at the Brookdale Center of Gerontology, and it was pretty uncomfortable to talk on the phone about by legal status in front of my fellow intern.
Fall 2006. Due to my undocumented status my potential college list has been altered. Most of my initial liberal art colleges have been crossed off, thankfully the CEO of Prep for Prep is a trustee for Kenyon College, and my grades fit their admitted students profile so I should have no problem getting in. Either way, I wish I had more options, though I remain thankful for what I have.
Winter 2007. I applied early to Kenyon and was granted admission; at least my life is secure for four more years.
Spring 2007. I received a call from the international student's office today, I was told that I’ll be registered as a non-resident alien in the college files, seeing as applying for a student visa would require
me to return to Mexico, and there's no guarantee that I’ll be able to return, the risks are just too big.
Summer 2007. Our supervisor at the office of the public advocate came around asking for our social security number, I gave her the number the number my parents use to fill out their tax forms, thankfully the public advocate's office won't be paying me this summer, either way, I hope I didn't look too nervous.
Return from Winter Break, Jan. 11, 2008. I’m now 18 years old and getting through airport security won't be as easy without a government ID today an officer of the department of homeland security pulled me aside and had me searched. Thankfully, my mother couldn't see from the waiting are when they frisk-searched me, it was pretty humiliating but I tried to make small talk as my backpack was emptied, I kept on wanting to tell the officers that I posed a threat to no one and was just like any other college on their way back from the holidays.
Summer 2008. The CEO of New York Disaster Interfaith Services came by today with new employee agreements I had to sign. Though they're not paying me this summer I still had to fill in the social security line, I’m getting pretty tired of having to lie, but I don't want any problems.
Return from Spring break, March, 2009. Our Greyhound bus spontaneously stopped today in between Buffalo and Syracuse, two Department of Homeland Security officers boarded and I obviously lied to them, telling them I was a US citizen, I didn't have to show any documents, just uttering the words was sufficient. Unfortunately, the three young men, whom I gave some clothes to in Buffalo, weren't as lucky, were I courageous I would have stood up for them, and asked why they had to be hand cuffed as if they were criminals, or at least silenced the laughter I heard coming from the rear. But since I’m not, I just dug my head in the seat in front of me and recited the opening line to Psalm 91 repeatedly, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."
End of School Year, May, 2009. Sophomore year just ended. Today just before leaving Buffalo, NY, a couple of Department of Homeland Security officers boarded the bus, when one asked if I was born in the US I looked at him straight in the eyes and said yes, its slightly discomforting to realize that I’ve been getting better at lying to them, but it helps to have so much rage, not at individuals, just at the entire system.
Spring 2009. Today, during a heated argument on affirmative action, I made the statement that I would not be present on the campus were it not for concerted efforts made to assist minority groups that were historically and institutionally prevented from attending college. One classmate looked at me and asked how did I feel taking someone else’s spot? I didn’t know how to respond and unable to justify my existence at Kenyon, stated that I loved it here, and couldn’t imagine my life without this opportunity. Looking back, who I don’t think anyone should or can justify their existence, too much goes into the existence of one human being, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Fall 2009. During the church offering today we were asked to fill out an organ donor application. I couldn’t help asking myself that if I died here in America would my heart, lungs and tissues be illegal too? And thought pleasantly on those lines from e.e. cummings: “when god lets my body be/ from each brave eye shall sprout a tree …. the purpled world will dance upon my lips which did sing.”
Late May, 2009. I’m volunteering at an immigrant rights group from the summer, and while discussing my responsibilities for the summer I was asked if I was a US citizen, I said no.
That's all I have to say for now, I omitted the events of September 11, and my father being laid-off repeatedly, my mother working grueling hours in a clothing factory, and my older sister’s frustration at our condition. I fear that I’ve painted a pretty miserable picture of my life, though these dates aren't entirely representative of my life, they are, however, "precious parts of my experience" and their significance play out continually throughout my narrative (Ellison). Also, it's not a good habit to continually lie to people; thankfully I’m slowly getting better at speaking the truth. I just wanted you to get a fuller understanding of my story, which is now your story.
Hassan tells me that some good must arise from living illegally in the United States, and I’m tempted to agree. Without romanticizing our condition too much, I can say that knowing everything I have ever worked for can be immediately taken away from me has made me appreciate what I have. I love the bond that unites all who live without proper documentation in the United States, our shared stories, emotions, and psychology. There’s also something to say about the narrative that we share with other aliens people, whether the Israelites living in Egypt or black slaves in America, and that our struggle is the next chapter in the long, but beautiful, struggle for civil, natural, and human rights.
– Marco, Student Blogger