Updated: Mar 2, 2022
As an undocumented Latina, I grew up surrounded by an American culture that was hostile towards my identity. At the same time I understood the Mexican culture, but could never find Mexico to be my home.
I was born in a town named Tepatitlán de Morelos located in the northeast region of the Mexican state of Jalisco. My family was barely able to afford basic food and necessities. My dad would immigrate to the United States for months at a time in order to earn money and maintain us in Mexico. When I was almost two, my family made the difficult decision to immigrate to the United States in search of a better life, just like countless other immigrants around the globe.
We had no other choice but to immigrate to the United States without legal documentation. We continue to reside here with the uncertainty of if and when we will receive lawful status. Despite being here since the age of two, I continue to be undocumented.
Luckily, I live in one of the states that has laws that help undocumented students in comparison to more conservative states. I have been able to qualify for DACA and it has given me the ability to work and save up money for college along with helping my family. California also allows for AB540 students to pay for in-state tuition rather than out of state tuition in comparison to many other states.
Throughout high school, I would hide my identity, only revealing it to some friends and teachers that I trusted and felt comfortable around. I was afraid of what others would think about me and what they would say, since many people in my hometown were conservative. Even if teachers and friends tried to be understanding, no one really knew the way I felt. Revealing my legal status to anyone simply felt as if I was jeopardizing my existence in the United States, so I remained silent for the most part throughout high school.
As an undocumented Latina, I grew up surrounded by an American culture that was hostile towards my identity. At the same time I understood the Mexican culture, but could never find Mexico to be my home. There’s a saying in spanish that states “ni de aquí ni de allá”, which is “neither from here nor there.” This saying is something that I directly relate to as I struggle with identifying with a certain place as my home. Additionally, many undocumented inviidulas also refer to that phrase as we all identify with that sentiment.
The process of accepting my identity began in my first year of college. Being surrounded by individuals who also identify as undocumented or DACAmented has helped me see that there are others who share similar struggles. Embracing my identity has empowered me to overcome the barriers I have due to my immigration status.
I have met individuals just like me who are highly motivated in pursuing careers in medicine, law, and other areas along with being involved in many extracurriculars. A member of my sorority that I’ve grown close to is currently on the path to law school. Although undocumented and without DACA status, she has held many positions in multiple clubs, intern positions and has maintained high grades while studying for her LSAT. It’s been inspiring to see her immigration status does not hold her back in pursuing her goals.
Currently, I am a pre-law student at UCLA with the hopes of becoming an immigration attorney. According to the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), about 4% of U.S. lawyers are hispanic and less than 2% are Latinas. Of course, the percentage of undocumented Latina lawyers is even smaller. Nevertheless, just like many other undocumented students who are working tenaciously to have a career in their dream job, I will continue to work for what I’m passionate for. Seeing everything that my parents have done for me so that I could have a better future motivates me to continue working towards my goals even if I cannot see when citizenship lies ahead of me.