Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Youth Voice: "I am not an illegal alien. I am not a terrorist nor lazy. And I am, most definitely, not uneducated."

By Sam Piha



We hear a lot about the plight of undocumented immigrants. But we don’t often hear from young people. Angie’s story in her own words is below. 

In a future post, we will interview an organizational leader on how afterschool programs can support undocumented youth or youth with undocumented family members.

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My name is Angie. My preferred gender pronouns are she/her. They/them is also okay with me. 

I was born in Huazuntlan, a small village in Veracruz. In my infant years I didn't know who my mother was, for she had immigrated to the United States after I was born, leaving me and my brother under my grandmother’s wing. For four years I struggled with the faceless image of a mother I had never met, and wondered if I would ever get the privilege of doing so. 

Now that I'm old enough to reflect on my experience, I can fully understand my mother’s reasoning for leaving: all she wanted was to give us the life she never had. Because I was very young, four years old to be exact, my remembrance of my immigration experience is very foggy. 

But this is how it had gone down:

My mother had met a lady in the U.S. not much older than her. She vented to her on the amount of pain she felt every second of every hour because she had left my brother and I. This opened the woman's eyes to what she thought was easy money. My mother ended up paying her $10,000 with the hope that she would see us soon, and that we would finally be reunited. However, things didn't go as planned. 

My brother and I had left our village at four in the morning, way too early for an eight and four year old. We were taken to an airport where we boarded a plane that would take us to Tijuana, where we would meet up with the supposed ‘fairy godmother’ that would ‘reunite’ us with our mom. Meeting her was a very frightening thing. Her face is just another blurry image lost in my head but I remember her skin being lighter than anyone I'd ever met before. Once we greeted her, we were taken to a hotel in which we spent a day. After the day had passed by, we checked out of the hotel and proceeded to face the frightening border. 

During our time with the woman, my brother and I were coached on what we had to say when it came to the border patrol. We were given new identities that we were expected to memorize in one day. This was an easy task for me, but when it came to my brother (who was very sleepy at the time) he ended up messing up.  

Quickly after being caught, we were taken to a detention center. As soon as we entered, our shoelaces were taken off of our shoes and we were put into a windowless room with about 12 other people. There were no beds and the bathrooms had no doors to them. The floor was basically our bed and we were only given one blanket per person. We were held there for three days. 

After the three days had passed, parents began to get called. Of course my mother was in the U.S, so it was impossible for her to pick us up. Because of this, my brother and I were separated and taken to separate orphanages. For a whole week I didn't know anything about my brother. I was back in that state of having no one. I was four years old, and I had now lost both my brother and mom: I was scared, empty, alone. 


When asked, Angie explained her painting (above) by saying, "I feel trapped inside figurative and literal borders. These borders include: attending and graduating college, getting a job, and not being able to visit my family back in Mexico". 







Thankfully, my eldest aunt had a tendency of coming back and forth between the United States and Mexico. She had found out about the situation and was now going to be our savior. Seeing her felt like such a relief because now there was hope. We picked up my brother and he hugged me way harder than he'd ever hugged me before. 

Shortly after, we met up with two coyotes (people who smuggle Latin Americans across the US border) who would, rightfully, do their job in reuniting my family once again. I was the smallest one out of the four of us (my brother, aunt and cousin-who made the decision in crossing with us as well). I had to go first. We were separated once again.

I was put in the trunk of a car, along with one of the coyotes who was there for ‘moral’ support. It was hot and it was very hard to breathe. I was told that I had to remain calm and quiet in order to not get caught once again. I obliged and soon after, the trunk was being opened and I was being released to my ‘new beginning’. This was when I met my mother for the first time. The rest is history. The rest of my family arrived about two weeks later and we began our new life together. 

Being undocumented has, and will always be, a big part of who I am as a person. I have had to face many struggles, but I am thankful that I now have my family to go through it with.

Being an immigrant has always been seen as a ‘negative’ thing, and even was a taboo subject for all of us. But I can now proudly say that I am tired of hiding away my identity. I am not an illegal alien. I am not a terrorist nor lazy. And I am, most definitely not uneducated. 

I am not alone. 
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Angie is 17 years old and a senior in high school. She plans to attend San Jose State University where she hopes to study criminal psychology and childhood development. Angie loves painting and often shares her identity as an undocumented person, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community through her art. Angie hopes to become a voice for undocumented youth who were never encouraged to strive for more, or who were too afraid due to their status.


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You can read other blogs by the LIAS project by going to: 


  • Expanded Learning 360°/365 Project website
  • LIAS Blog Written for the California Afterschool Network

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