Issue 25: Race & Ethnicity - Cultural Relations
"Do you know what makes this situation worse? If my parents get deported, it’s my job to take care of my siblings."
El Sueño Americano Mio vs. El de Mis Papas
Axidi Iglesias, Brooks School
March 31, 2019
When asked to write about culture, immigration, and diversity for The Tavern, I laughed. Nothing encapsulates my identity more than these three words. My mother’s indigenous Central Mexican culture and my father’s traditions from Michoacán follow me wherever I go.
Immigration, well that’s a touchy subject. I don’t like to talk about it all that much, but if I want to represent my disenfranchised parents, well then I’ll have to tell you all a secret— a secret 99% of my Brooks School community has no idea about. Both my parents are undocumented immigrants. And those words you hear on the news about “illegal” immigrants coming from Mexico who are criminals and drug dealers? Those words hurt me. I feel like my parents are being accused of being people they are not. While you may fear undocumented immigrants, I should let you know my parents and I live in fear of deportation every single day. While my three younger siblings and I are U.S. citizens because we were born here (thank god for that 14th amendment), my parents do not have legal residence in the U.S. I find myself in the crosshairs of what it means to be apart of a family with undocumented parents and US-born children.
Targets for deportation no longer include only criminals, but people like my parents, who wish for nothing more than to be wanted by a nation that doesn’t want them back. They both came to the United States in order to pursue their “American Dream.” So they work hard and do everything right. Yet, they are still undocumented and do not reap the benefits that a US citizen is legally entitled to. My parents are constantly watching their backs and staying low-profile. Do you know what makes this situation worse? If my parents get deported, it’s my job to take care of my siblings. I’ve heard these instructions my whole life— my mother telling me what I have to do if the worst case scenario occur. Growing up, ICE used to knock down doors in the middle of the night of the apartment complexes where I used to live, but now, they are out during the day, waiting to rip people away from the “American Dream.” In the fall, ICE struck at the Mexican grocery store where my mom shops, and I begged her not to go. Not only was I managing the stress of reintegrating to the workload at Brooks School after a year abroad in China and my college applications; I was also always thinking: “What if my parents are next?”
It’s hard for me to write this because it took me a long time to get comfortable with telling people about this. Quite honestly, I am not so comfortable yet. But if I want to share my story so that you know that students with my similar story could be sitting next to you during class, then I hope my story helps you feel empathy for undocumented immigrants like my parents. If I, a senior at a boarding school has had this heavy weight on her shoulders her whole life, then I am sure you can empathize with people who are dealing with tough issues as well.
As a student of color, I am adding diversity to my school. But diversity doesn’t just mean color. There is also diversity in terms of socioeconomic status, ideas, sexuality, gender, and so many more things across a broad spectrum that I couldn’t quite possibly name them all. What diversity do I bring to Brooks? Well, besides being a Mexican-American student from Southern California, I also come from a low-income household. My dad is a contractor and my mom used to be a waitress, but she got injured on the job. (That’s another story.) Growing up as the oldest sibling, I have always fulfilled the role of babysitter since both my parents were always working. They couldn’t afford a babysitter, because even my mom’s tips went towards paying the bills. At the age of eight, I learned to keep the windows and doors of our apartment in the projects locked. I perfected the art of sandwich making and always remembered my assembly line of ham, cheese, lettuce, mayo, and white bread. As I got older, I often had to cancel plans because I had to take care of my siblings. Knowing we needed the extra money, I never argued. How did I deal with this pressure of having to be the perfect daughter and sister, while pursuing my love for learning? I channeled it through doing my best in school because even as a little girl, I knew I wanted to escape a cycle of poverty and I also wanted to repay my parents back for all the sacrifices they had made for my family. I always worked hard in school and in eighth grade, I got accepted to Brooks School on a full scholarship. My parents and I cried together for a long time. We were happy. My parents told all their friends proudly and they told me my accomplishments serve as proof that all their sacrifices to come to America were not for nothing.
Despite all these sacrifices, America has treated my parents unkindly, yet, my parents do not lose their love for this country. Whenever an American sports team is playing on TV, my parents sit in front of the television, with eyes sparkling with pride for the athletes on-screen. Watching them astounds me. How could they have such a deep allegiance to America, a country that has marginalized them?
While my parents see me as the portal to live out their American Dream, my own personal American Dream is making sure they age and die with dignity in a country that has never wanted them. I yearn to go to college and excel in this country, which will enable me to give undocumented immigrants the chance to pursue their own dreams so that they no longer have to rely on their children to serve as their portal. For now, I don’t know where I will be for the next step of my journey (Can regular decisions please come out already?), but I know that my Mexican culture, and my deep love for my immigrant parents, will allow me to add diversity wherever I go next.