I speak perfect English, and they are not allowed to ask for documentation if you say you are a citizen. So, I lied, and they moved on. I was left in my seat, staring at my reflection on the window. My heart was beating faster than it had ever beat, and it was with detached surprise that I thought how remarkably normal I looked. When I got home, I broke down in my mother’s arms. This happened twice over a period of two years. Finally, we decided the gamble was too much. I would not go back home. I had to finish college, and we couldn’t risk shattering my dreams.
I have not seen my family for a few years. I have felt smaller and more helpless than I could have ever imagined. I have been angry and confused. I have broken down at odd moments, because I could simply not do anything else. With time, I learned to accept and to live one moment at a time. A couple of weeks ago, I had occasion to break down once more... in happiness. President Obama has changed everything for people like me. With his recent executive decision to grant individuals in my position the ability to work legally in the United States, I am one step closer to being the normal ‘American’ girl I have always perceived myself to be.
Let this be clear, this is a story about happiness.
I will be the first in my family to graduate from college, and I will be the first Ivy League graduate from my town. Many people will not understand my story, and many American citizens will be angry that I am here. I know that I will not receive empathy from everyone. But I will say this: I am not an expert or a teacher, but I am a person—a person who is, more than anything else, just like anyone reading this. I offer my story in hopes that it touches some of you, and that it makes others like me feel as if they are not alone.
I remain a firm believer that people cannot be illegal.
In my happiest memories, I am spinning. I am spinning around my mother in our home; I am spinning with my niece in my arms. I am spinning with my friends, giggling as we sit by the river and contemplate our futures. In my happiest memories, I am here, and I am home.