Over the past few weeks, we’ve crossed mountains and rivers and deserts with five brave young people who came to this country alone, wishing each a kind welcome and protection at the journey’s end. But for many, new sorrows and dangers are only beginning. We end this month’s series of border crossing stories with a piece describing a high school student’s first day of school in his new country, as new walls and new borders and dangers arise.
Story Six—No Dream Is Illegal
I’m writing here sitting beside my open window, trying to escape from my daily routine which chases me excessively, I’ll say, just like dogs chase cats. I close my eyes and remember my first day of school. I remember that morning when I was on the school bus listening to some guys talking about their summer. One of them said, “I went to visit my family in New Jersey.”
The other guy replied, “The only thing I did this summer was go to the beach. I went so many times, I started to get bored.”
While the bus was entering the school grounds, I thought to myself, at least I’ll have someone to talk to since there are more students who also speak Spanish.
Little by little, students started entering the school. Then, I remembered that I had to stop by the main office to drop off some papers. I decided to ask one of the students I heard talking on the bus for help, but they sharply answered they didn’t speak Spanish. At least that is what I understood, since they said it in English, an experience that was not very pleasant.
Afternoon came. School ended, and I started walking home. When I was about to cross, one block away from my house beside some old trees, I heard some American men making fun of other people just because they were Latinos. I hear them, close my eyes and think how I wish I could do something to change the way some people think about the undocumented, but I open my eyes and am still living the same reality, with even worse things happening. We, Latinos, are living a reality where we see parents being deported, families being separated and a lot of children ending up in orphanages, all happening because of deportations.
I get to my house, and I see my mom and our neighbor talking, both by the front door and both holding a broom. I manage to hear when the neighbor asks my mom:
“Hey, neighbor, and how’s it going with your legal situation?”
To which my mother replies, “So, so. Why?”
“Because I saw on the news they were going to deport all the undocumented from this country.”
My mom, outraged, answered, “They can’t do that! They cannot take away our right to be here and watch our kids grow up!”
I kept walking, entered the house, and after finishing my homework, I still felt some anger when I thought about all the injustice that exists for some people. I sat down on a chair in the kitchen, and after a few minutes, my mother came in to start making supper.
“How are you?” she asked.
“Fine,” I answered.
“Could you help me wash the dishes?”
“Okay,” I replied.
“You’re acting strange.”
“Nothing’s wrong,” I answered.
“Well, it’s just me, then. Why don’t you call your grandmother? It’s been a while since you last called her. Go on, call her and say hi.”
“Okay, I’ll call her.”
I dialed, and my grandmother picked up.
“Hello, Gran. How are you?”
“I’m fine, thanks. And you?”
“I’m okay, though a little worried.”
“Why?” she asked.
“I’m worried about the way Latinos are treated in this country, even worse if they’re undocumented.”
“Oh, my boy, I still remember when an uncle of yours died trying to cross the border when he couldn’t bear the heat and hunger anymore. This happened before you were born. It’s difficult, but you keep going. Remember that you’re in the country of opportunities, and no dream is illegal. I wish I could talk longer, but I have to go.”
“Okay. I’ll call you soon.”
Night comes, and with it, the hour to sleep. I was about to lie down, when I felt my room was very cold. It was then I realized my window was still open.
-Translated from the original Spanish by Silvia Heredia