My name is Emma and I.M. Beyond Borders. Learn about the great opportunities DACA has given me, such as my recent trip to Mexico City on a journey towards discovering my bi-nationality and ultimately becoming “de aquí Y de allá”. Learn how I have found my place in a classroom as a first-generation college student navigating spaces that were not meant for me. I have come to appreciate the phrase “Si, se puede"
#ISupportDACA #DACAworks #DACAmented #IMBeyondBorders #HereToStay
At an alumni event last week, I shared with fellow Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School graduates the life-changing experience I had in the summer of 2016. I shared how for five weeks, I lived and studied in Mexico City, Mexico, and how, for one brief, happy and heartbreaking weekend, I was able to return to my place of birth.
I was prompted to share this experience because we were all sharing ways in which we’ve dealt with bias and discrimination at our respective college campuses. I spoke of the identity that solidified as a result of my participation in the DACA Cultural Exchange Program. Of how before this experience, I’d felt a bit lost in regards to which country I belonged to, which led to an uncertainty in going forward as a person, as a student, (and in the future) as a professional. After that experience, I was able to ease some of the anxiety that plagues my interactions at an institution where many people don’t know what “undocumented” means, and not to mention what “DACA” or “Advance Parole” means. Now, I am more confident in where I come from and the direction that I want my life to take...
I emphasized that the realization of my identity as Mexican AND American did not happen overnight, as it took many weeks after my trip to ruminate on the conflicting feelings of gratefulness and disillusion that I experienced. It wasn’t until I returned to Austin College as a junior in the fall of 2016 that I was able to name what had changed. It was an empowerment of sorts, a greater confidence in not only my academic work, but my actions, my place in the classroom, and in myself as a person overall. It was a validation of all of the experiences that had brought me to where I am now – a first-generation college student navigating spaces that were not meant for me. It’s not only a far cry from my humble beginnings in Durango, but also the streets of Oak Cliff that saw me become the woman I am today.
The memorable five weeks of living and learning alongside fellow DACAmented participants; Colegio de Mexico (COLMEX) classmates hailing from all parts of the Mexican republic; our expert and world-renowned professors; and the unprecedented access to officials from all levels of government ranging from former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Claudia Ruiz Massieu, to U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson. It all culminated in what I can only call a bi-nationality I did not know I possessed and I’d never learned to appreciate as a valid one. It was most evident in the shift I took from being “ni de aquí ni de allá” to being “de aquí Y de allá”. A shift from not being “from neither here nor from there” to being “from here AND from there”.
But the path to be able to return to Mexico wasn’t easy. Thankfully, I had the undivided support of Dallas’ Latino Center for Leadership Development and Mexican Consulate to make the process as smooth as possible. I will admit that I wasn’t going to apply for the opportunity, as I felt my Spanish skills were inadequate for an institution such as el Colegio de Mexico, one of Mexico’s premier liberal arts and social sciences institution.
You see, I left Durango when I was seven years old. Upon my arrival to Dallas, it was assimilate or fail. By the time I was able to return to Mexico, I was twenty years old with well over half my life spent speaking English and wholeheartedly embracing American customs. At the encouragement of my family members and professors, I applied to the program in early February, and by early March, I was notified of my selection to take part in the transformational experience after several rounds of introspective interviews. After that, everything moved very quickly, as my fellow program participants and I had to quickly submit our applications to receive Advance Parole, the discretionary measure that would allow us to be paroled back into the U.S. for our return in July. Three months, many emails, and signed applications later, I boarded a flight with a return ticket alongside nine other DREAMers whom I would come to consider family.
After five weeks of illuminating classes at el COLMEX, almost daily excursions to prominent historical sites such as El Castillo de Chapultepec and El Angel de la Independencia, and adventures in Puebla, I wanted to come home. But when we finally came home, as ecstatic as I was to see my family, I couldn’t deny the urge to return to Mexico some day and continue to experience all its culture, history, and another trip to see my extended family once more.
I am aware of the inherent, albeit hard-earned privileges that my life has been defined by up to this point (the DACA Cultural Exchange Program being one of them). Most evenings in Mexico, and many since my return to the U.S. , I am wracked with guilt at being one in a small number of immigrants with the privilege to visit their origin country and return with relative ease. I am troubled by the classist divisions at work within the immigrant community, and the opportunist legislators trying to convince America that there are those among us who truly belong here and those who don’t.
And days away from seeing a fascist, white-supremacist bigot inaugurated as President, this January has been particularly difficult. It’s fraught with hopelessness and despair of having to put your life on hold because the future is uncertain. The anti-immigrant rhetoric is at an all-time high (although is it ever at a low?) and some days, it feels like the weight of the world can be too much.
But haven’t we always picked ourselves up despite our losses? To all my fellow DACA recipients, and to all immigrants, regardless of where you fall on the legalization spectrum I say this:
Don’t fall into the trap of justifying your place in this country over another’s. Recognize the common humanity in each and every one of your fellow undocumented migrants. Understand and sit with your often hard-earned privileges, whether you are college-educated or already receiving a steady source of income. Celebrate your successes and accomplishments. Take pride in them, no matter how big or small.
And finally, undertake the difficult task of claiming your bi-nationality if you so choose, no matter your country of origin. I have to confess I never thought it was possible to dedicate yourself to one national identity, as if it was fixed or you had to choose. But that’s the beauty of the situations many of us find ourselves in. That for one reason or another, we migrated to this country, and personally, have learned the importance of making peace with both parts of our identities. I’ve had to accept both sides of me, have pride in both of them, and then work with both of them to be the bridge that our countries so desperately needs.
We, without a doubt, need to move beyond catchy and convenient slogans and resist. Resist as hard as we can because, as we’ve already seen, these next four years are going to be hard. But we’ve never shied away from a challenge.
Our existence is our resistance.
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