In Writing

You don’t know what it took to get here. You can’t know. My parents crossed the border so I could cross the stage. But you call them illegals.

You sit in your comfortable chair, and judge. Why can’t they do it like our grandparents? Why can’t they learn English? Why don’t they just go back?

First, your grandparents did it the way they did it because there was no law to prevent them from doing it. Educate yourself. Learn something. Before you go judging others, understand that it’s the rules that have changed, not the people. If you don’t know where to start, there are some links at the bottom of this post, if you have the courage to face what you don’t know. And, oh, by the way, go back far enough in any family tree, and there’s most likely someone who didn’t speak English when they came, maybe many years after they arrived.

And, no, we’re not going back.

My parents crossed the border so I could cross the stage.

They worked in jobs that you wouldn’t take in a million years.
They scrubbed things until their hands bled.
They stayed up late into the night sewing your clothes when they wished they could be sleeping.
They cleaned your house.
They figured out who to borrow money from when it was short.
They found a way to buy clothes at discount.
They saved up and sent money to their loved ones when they could.
They learned to read English when everyone else was asleep.
They got their GED so they could send it home to their mom and say, “See, Ma? I did it.”
They cried at holidays for all the people they left behind.
They told me I could be anything.
They held me as I cried when I failed.
They told me that our kind doesn’t give up, so get back out there.
They picked flowers from the side of the road when there wasn’t money to buy any, to make the apartment look pretty.
They picked up the old couch you put by the curb just because you didn’t like the color anymore.
They held their head high when someone called them a name.

They crossed the border, yes. A choice you’ve never been in a position to have to make. A choice you might not have the courage to make if it got as bad as that. But our kind doesn’t give up. We get back out there.

We learn your rules. We learn your language. We take your classes. We beat your kids’ test scores. Maybe that’s why you’re afraid of us. You see us coming. You call us gang members and terrorists to keep us back. But we don’t want what you have. We want to add to it, make it grow, give it a tinge of our color, a hint of our flavor, make it better for everyone. We want to dance, and rejoice, and make it a little easier for those who come after. Isn’t that what you want too?

A book about what it’s like to grow up “illegal.”

Times have been hard for my kind. But every day, they get a little better. I stand on the shoulders of those who came before. I honor their sacrifice. I walk the stage, stand up proud while they fight back tears in the audience, and say, “My parents crossed the border so I could cross the stage.” And the future is mine.



Want to read about why your ancestors weren’t “illegal”? Read, “Yes, your ancestors probably did come here legally, because ‘illegal’ immigration is less than a century old.” Click here.

“Here’s the reality about illegal immigrants in the United States.” Click here.

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