By Catherine Odom ‘20
A model student, college sophomore Paloma participates in student government, runs cross country, has her nurse’s assistant certification, and works as a lifeguard. On the surface, she seems like your typical hardworking, driven twenty-year-old student.
However, Paloma is actually one of over 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Her family crossed the border fifteen years ago when she was just five years old. Her family members—her four siblings, her mother, her father, and herself—have varying legal statuses in the United States, but all of them face the stress and uncertainty associated with being undocumented or having undocumented family.
While Paloma is protected under DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, her par
ents and her fifteen-year-old sister constantly face the threat of deportation. Indian Post interviewed Paloma to learn about her family and to shed light on the struggles of a family of undocumented immigrants.
Indian Post: Could you tell me about your family’s situation?
Paloma: I was brought at the age of five. I just turned twenty today, so we’ve been here for fifteen years. Even though we’re here, we’re living in fear. You know, anything could happen at any moment—our
family could be separated. But I’ve learned from my mom and dad that you can’t live in fear and you have to hope for the best. I’m the one who’s scared because I know I have protection right now. But my family—what about them? Without my family, what am I doing?
IP: What are some of your aspirations and dreams for after college?
P: I’m still figuring that out at the moment, but as I’ve been working over the summer I realized that work does take a lot of my own time throughout the day. By the end of day, I’m tired when I go to sleep. But then, I can’t forget about my family, because without them, what am I doing this for? I’m doing it for myself, but then I remember who gave me t
his opportunity. If it wasn’t for my parents, I would even be in a situation where I have the opportunity. Ye
s, I am limited. But still, I’ve done so much more than I think I could have done if I were in Mexico.
Right now, my family is what’s most important. In the future, I just want to have a j
ob that I l
ike. I’m not doing it for someone else, I’m helping my community, and I can come home to my family. That’s what
I have in mind for after college.
IP: What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of your situation as someone with DACA?
P: Being limited, really. People tell you the sky’s the limit—I believe that—but how can I actually do what I want when I am limited to it? In high school, I went to this program that taught how to become a firefighter. But then, I learned that I had to be a U.S. citizen, so I had to stop going to that. It’s just really hard because they tell you that you can be whatever you want.
It’s so hard if you don’t have the money. A lot of people say, “Oh, undocumented illegals—they don’t pay taxes. They live off welfare and everything.” My family pays property taxes. I pay income taxes, and I do
n’t get federal aid. We pay taxes and we give to the community. My dad works, during holidays too. Sometimes we don’t have enough time with him. He would be gone for months just to go work and just to help us get by.
IP: If you could get rid of one misconception about immigration and immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, what would it be?
P: Well, I guess the famous thing that’s been said is that Mexicans—I don’t know exactly w
hat was said—are criminals, rapists, and all these kinds of things. I feel like, even if it wasn’t directly directed at me, I still felt it because I’m illegal. I’m Mexican. They teach us not to stereotype people, and then someone who’s in such a high position says this. It just hurts me, because he’s supposed to be my president. Even though I’m illegal, I feel like I’m from this country.
There was a point where I was at Girls State—they only chose the very top of the class to go to this event for a week, and we learned how to pass bills, how to make bills, and we also sang songs. One of the songs was “I’m Proud to Be an American.” So we were singing this, and I just started crying. I wanted to say the words, and I felt these words because I fight for this country, but it feels like I’m not the person to say it. I felt like I didn’t have the right to actually sing the song, like I wasn’t allowed to, like they didn’t want me here.
So, really, I feel like the misconception is that being undocumented and being illegal is seen as taking people’s jobs and being a criminal. But the media makes it seem like these small little things apply to everybody, when they do not. There are good, hardworking people like my parents. Okay, we came from a whole different country. We got to come over here. We don’t even speak English, but we still took your job, you know like they say we take your job, right? I see a lot of people, like homeless people, in the streets, and I feel bad for them, but then, you know, my dad once said, “Look, look at him. He has his hands; he has his feet, and everything is good. He can go find work and make something.”
You have to start from somewhere, and you can’t just wait for things to be handed to you, even if you have to go to a different country to fight for that. Because for my family, America—the United States of America—is a land of opportunity. It was seen like a place where you go to make your dreams come true.
When we got here, it was hard, but now, we’re constantly faced with “We don’t want you here.” But then again, who’s the face of America? Because the country is a melting pot. You know, it’s not a certain race; it’s not a certain language. Everything is mixed.