My name is Lucy and I am and undocumented immigrant that has been living in the U.S for 20 years. I define American as – someone that has established their roots here (whether brought as a child or came as an adult), is hard working, lives as a citizen regardless of having papers or not.
When I was 6 years old, my parents were going through a difficult economic time in Mexico and decided they, like many others would pursue the “American Dream”. The plan was to come for a year or so and my dad would work and save up some money and then we would move right back. Well, that’s not what happened. After arriving, my parents decided to put me in school because I couldn’t waste valuable time when it came to education.
I started elementary and I remember how terrified I was and how lost I felt not speaking English and having no one to explain what was going on. Eventually, I learned and embraced the language and culture. I was soon translating for my parents and helping them read their mail. My younger brother and sister picked-up the language and didn’t even need ESL (English as a second language) classes.
One day in 7th grade, I was summonsed to the student counselor’s office. When I walked in the counselor hands me a certificate and says “congratulations! you no longer need to be in ESL classes.” I was confused. I thought I was in “regular” classes because I wasn’t in classes in which the teacher spoke Spanish to us or explained our homework in Spanish. I didn’t know i was being categorized because of where I was born… after all, I was taking “regular” classes in my elementary school. It wasn’t until I got to High School where I realized what it was like to be undocumented.
Other than my parents sort of mentioning that were weren’t “from here” I couldn’t really understand the whole “undocumented” thing. My dad had a license to drive and and I.D (it wasn’t as hard to get one before as it is now), he was working, we were doing fine. Well, at the end of my sophomore year I had an opportunity to participate in an internship because I was part of an acadamy within my school (which was like the magnet program) called the “International Trade Academy.” I told my parents and they explained that I didn’t have a social security number – which i needed to work here. Long story short, a friend of ours had a daughter in Mexico who had a social security number that she wasn’t using so I was able to “borrow” it so I could do the internship.
I was scared and didn’t know if it was going to work for me. I had to do something that a lot of people in my shoes have to do; yes, it is breaking the law… but there would be no other way to make a living if I didn’t do this. I got a fake green card and social security card. I was hired for my internship at a successful and prestigious shipping line at the Port of Los Angeles – APL. I was able to work there even after my internship was over. I went back the Summer after I graduated from High School and the fact that they contacted me to go back made me feel wonderful. I kept working there; sometimes full-time and sometimes part time while I was in school. I was attending the California State University, Long Beach when I married my husband Pablo at age 20. Shortly after having been married, I got pregnant and still walked the campus back-and-forth carrying all my books. I was due the week of Midterms. I went to school untill the day I had my baby; took a week off; and went right back to complete my midterms. I got my Bachelors in Science in Business Management. I was so ecstatic because I could now be a full-time employee where I was working. I loved working at APL.
However, on March of 2009, I received a phone call from human resources telling me that there were some discrepancies with the Social Security office. I told them I would call and straighten things out but they said I’d have to stop working until it was straightened out because it wasn’t the first time this had happened. So that was that. I was forced to tell my current manager the truth and tell him it would be my last day there. He was very supportive and told me if I ever needed anything, to give him a call.
It has now been about 3 years since I stopped working. I have since attempted to seek employment elsewhere but have been unsuccessful due to fact that everyone wasn’t to do a DMV check or a background check or has e-verify. It’s been difficult trying to make it on only my husbands salary and pay all of our bills as well as our mortgage.
We’ve managed because we’ve had to limit ourselves a lot. Now, I am in process of getting my green card. I decided to do this because I need to help my parents. My dad lost his job as apartment manager. This meant he would also be losing his home and health insurance. They’ve been living at a frineds house for the last year and my dad can’t find work. I know that I am here illegally, however, I AM and American. I work hard, I pay my taxes (yes, I paid taxes – filed my taxes every year), contributed to my community and I now want to contribute to society with my degree. I just need to be given an opportunity. I am sorry that I have broken that law.