By Paul June 16, 2019
Country of Origin: Mexico
Age of Arrival: 3 or 4
Hometown: Pharr, Texas
Degree: Computer Engineering
I am a first generation college student and pretty much the first to even finish high school in my whole extended family. My aunts, uncles, grandparents and my parents are undocumented and are hardworking and honest people, but it is very difficult to find jobs. I want to become a U.S. citizen and create revolutionary AI. I want to become a role model for everyone else in my family and especially my younger siblings. Attending college is very important to me because I grew up in the society where a degree means that all your dreams will come true. I want my degree to be able to work and feel accomplished and take my family out of its perpetual poverty.
I had very high hopes for attending an Ivy League or another high tier university because they are usually the most understanding for those of my situation. But unfortunately I was not admitted into any university of the sort, and the other universities I had in mind did not offer me enough financial aid for me attend. I chose to attend my local university because it offered me the financial aid that bigger schools did not. I am often mocked or ridiculed for being a top student yet ending up in the local university. The students have no idea of my troubles or why I was not eligible for a lot of financial aid or loans or scholarship opportunities. Overall I am grateful because at one point I seriously considered living and studying in Mexico. I convinced myself that it doesn’t matter where I get my education as long as I use it correctly.
If I did not obtain a scholarship, I contemplated going to a vocational school but discarded that when I realized my mom wouldn’t support me in that financially. My mother needs urgent financial support or relief and she has tried to force me into being a nurse or any vocational training that could help me support for the family but without a social security number I wouldn’t be able to work. I strongly considered leaving the U.S. and my whole life behind and moving back to Mexico and starting a new life there. I also thought about shadowing my uncles and learning anything I could about being an underpaid mechanic to try it on my own.
My competitive mathematics coach played a big role in inspiring me to have ambitions, he prepared me to win the state championship and become the first ever state champion at my school. He, time and time again, demonstrated that I could succeed in life and overcome my obstacles. He is going to graduate from Harvard this semester with his master’s degree in mathematics, and he is a giant inspiration to me and a great role model. He is so young yet so accomplished and so incredibly knowledgeable and intelligent that it makes me believe I could achieve the same level.
A few years ago, my father was deported for domestic abuse. He was drunk one night, and a panicked phone call was all it took to rip him out of our lives. My father would work as a carpenter, mechanic, electrician, construction worker, landscaper and just about anything he could do to provide for our family. Since my father’s deportation, my mother had to start providing for the family, and it was very difficult for her. She had never had a job nor did she know how to drive nor did she know how to take care of any other head of household responsibilities. Since then my mother has cried over eviction notices and other unpaid bills, but we’ve prevailed and my mother now works as a maid at a small local hotel. All my siblings are American citizens. I am still undocumented.
I always knew I was born in Mexico, and I was even proud of it. I’d show off the scar I have on my upper right arm and think I was cool. Somewhere in middle school, I learned that I was born specifically in Reynosa, but I was still oblivious to what that meant. It wasn’t until I started hearing talk of all the horrible things that were happening to undocumented people that I realized I was one of those people. I was nearing the age when most kids learn to drive and get a license. I learned that I wouldn’t be able to drive, to work, to travel, or to vote. Most recently, I was devastated that I am not eligible to receive federal financial aid.
I was around 3 or maybe 4 when my mom brought me here with a visitor visa, but my father crossed the river with a coyote. My mom once returned to Mexico for a family emergency and nearly died crossing the river to come back. The sacrifices are countless, my father left all of his family behind to try to start a better life for me and my mother. I remember a lot of going back to Mexico for visiting my cousins (up until my visitor visa expired) and a lot of financial difficulties, which still persist to this day. I remember living in a very small house we rented. I remember my parents not understanding English.
I learned Spanish at home but started school in the U.S. so I had to learn English. I was placed in classes with all the students who did not speak English. I quickly learned the language and was placed into an advanced class where I spoke English better than my classmates, who had English as their native language.
I quickly learned to be proud of my bilingual skills. I grew up and still am in a state of poverty, but I always thought it was normal until I visited a friend’s house. I truly realized that we were poor. I saw so many financial luxuries that were considered trivial to my friends. I grew up in the American culture, in the American school system, in the American everything. I am proud of my heritage, but it is heartbreaking to not be accepted as American when I am just like everyone else. I am too American to connect to my Hispanic side but much too Hispanic to connect to my American side. I am stuck in a hell-like middle where I am looked down on by everyone. From my college experience I want to become a respected member of society and a poster boy example that being undocumented means only what you let it mean.