My mother, Estela, and I arrived in the United States in 1988. I was two years old as she carried me in her arms across the Mexico-U.S. border. I was too young to understand what was happening, but my mom has told me many times why we left.
Before immigrating here, we lived on a small farm in a rural part of Oaxaca, Mexico. Her father, my grandfather, was a farmer, and we didn’t always have enough to eat. She was 20 years old back then, and her family and my own father had abandoned her. She grew up in a home where my grandfather was abusive to her and her siblings. The women in her family were expected to become mothers and care takers, nothing more. She feared for herself and for me. She was afraid that we’d both be relegated to a life of poverty with little to no education. My mother dreamed of so much more for me and herself, and she knew that Oaxaca had very little to offer.
So we made the long journey to California, where I attended school and eventually graduated from a university. My mother also gave birth to my sister here, a U.S. citizen who is now in her third year of college. I became an immigrants’ rights organizer in order to help other brave mothers, fathers, and children who came to this country to pursue something better. My mother has worked tirelessly since coming to the U.S. –volunteering at my school and learning English despite holding multiple jobs – and has been my driving force and inspiration.
In 2012, my life shifted, and I was finally able to work due to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Thanks to this temporary measure, I was able to pursue my dream job at the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. Although I was excited for this new chapter in my life, I felt like I was leaving my mother behind by moving from California to Nevada. However, after President Obama’s executive action announcement, I can finally breathe easier, knowing my mother is safe from deportation due to the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program.
Now it’s my mother’s time to step out of the shadows. My mother will benefit from DAPA in so many ways. Everyday things that others take for granted, like driving to the grocery store, will no longer scare her. She’ll be able to travel the country to come visit me. She’ll be able to work and safely demand a fair wage without fear of deportation.
DAPA is certainly not enough, but it’s a stepping stone for many, like my mother, who deserve to have their humanity recognized and live a life free of fear.