My name is Abraham and I.M. Beyond Borders.
Having traveled to my home country after fifteen years was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will always be thankful for. I missed my chance to say goodbye to my grandmother, but my grandfather was waiting for me in Monterrey and I took the risk. Why do I call traveling to my home country a risk? What’s Advance Parole? Would I be able to see my family once again, if so on which side of the border? I invite you to read my “I.M. Beyond Borders” story to find out why many people like me have chapters waiting for us to return and decide to that risk. #IMBeyondBorders #HereToStay #AdvanceParole #ISupportDACA #DACAWorks
“Cuando se regrese usted mijo, echele muchas ganas y dígale a su mama que la extraño” or… “When you go back son, give it your best and tell your mother that I miss her.” These were my grandfather’s last words to me before returning to the United States a few months ago. They didn’t just imply the literal meaning, but it was more of “I hope to see you soon.”
Returning to Monterrey, Mexico was not an easy decision. I had countless sleepless nights wondering if this was part of God’s plan for my life. Deciding to take the risk of returning to Mexico would not only leave me with an amazing experience as an adult, but I would also be able to somehow close a chapter in my life that had been started. After several years later, I was finally going to be able to return to what I call my second home.
I immigrated to the U.S. from Monterrey, Mexico in 2002 at just eight years young. At this early age, the only thing I knew about Monterrey was the street I grew up in, the name of our school, and the names of my family members; nothing more and nothing less. A child’s dream is never to leave his best friend and go into the unknown where he will stand out by dressing differently, speak another language, or have a different culture.
I’ve been raised in the “frontera” or border of South Texas, known as the Rio Grande Valley, for almost fifteen years. My home is just ten minutes north from the US-Mexico border. I can physically see my birth home when I stand by the border wall, but it always felt so unreachable. So close, yet so far. It was never my choice to leave Monterrey, but I do know that as a future parent, I would have made the same decision for my children.
Like many immigrant families, our journeys have its up and downs, but I thank God for keeping us together and in His sight. Being far away from our family members has been rough. It has been hard not being able to attend birthdays, weddings, quinceaneras, but especially funerals. About fifteen years ago, my mother took it upon herself to ensure her sons and daughters had the best opportunity and migrated to the U.S. She knew the life-threatening risk, emotional damage, and hardships that were ahead, but with faith and perseverance she knew that she could overcome it. She is the real dreamer, she’s the one that gave me hope and passed her dream to me. She’s God’s angel to me, the firm rock in my path, the giver and pusher of my faith; she’s the reason why I said yes to returning to Monterrey and closing a chapter for her and for myself.
My mother was not able to return home and take care of her mother, just like her mother took care of her when she was a young girl. In fifteen years, my mother couldn’t receive a hug nor kiss from her family; she was only able to see them through a computer screen. Tragedy, and the hurt of being undocumented, hit home when our grandmother passed away in November 2015. The most precious blessing to our family was gone, forever. She had developed an irreversible stage of Alzheimer’s, but was blessed to have lived that long. My mother had to make a life decision of 1) going back home to Monterrey to give her mother one last hug and kiss before her burial, yet risking the possibility of not ever seeing her husband, sons, daughter and grandchildren or 2) stay with her family in the U.S., yet carry the burden of not being able to see her mother one last time. This is the reality that being undocumented comes with, tough life decisions from one day to the next.
This was one of the deciding factors of why I decided to apply for advance parole. I knew that I had to close a chapter in our life and pay respects to my grandmother, send the message that we love them and miss them, that we're doing fine “el otro lado”, but mainly to make sure that I didn’t have to suffer the same thing with my grandfather as we did for my grandmother. My grandfather's nickname is Chano, he’s currently 83 years old. He’s the life partner of Concha, my grandmother. The reason why I sealed my advance parole document was to make sure that I saw him in person rather than through a computer screen like we always had.
I sent my Advance Parole request for humanitarian reasons explaining my grandfather would be going through a cardiac catheterization, a procedure that is used to diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions. At his age, this procedure would be high risk, which could possibly include a heart attack, stroke, blood clots, or severe arrhythmia. This was a needed procedure, but ran high risks. He knew it was worth it and that he would take the faith that came from his decision. My grandfather’s high health risk was my motivation and reason to travel to Monterrey and ensure I was there for anything he needed.
While applying for Advance Parole, I saw the face of joy from my mother. She shared endless stories of when we were in Monterrey and all the places and people that I would get to see once again. I learned to file the $360 application through friends and colleagues and although I knew it was more than worth it, it was a bit scary since I was filing it on my own. I filed my application at the beginning of June to be able to attend my grandfather’s procedure that was going to happen in late-August or early-September. To me, this was one of the longest waits I had ever experienced. I didn’t know if I would be accepted or denied nor what available travel dates I’d have. The scariest thing was the fine print that mentioned Customs and Border Protection officers had full discretion to allow or deny my return to my home, the U.S. Since I live in the borderlands, my plan was to crosswalk into Mexico, depart to Monterrey from there, and same thing when returning home. It was scary because the furthest I had been to since 2002 was the border at the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse in Hidalgo, Texas. I was finally going to touch land in Mexico after so long!
My parole was approved and allowed me to visit and be with my grandfather from August 26 until September 30. It was a blessing to be able to go back home after so long. I have spent close to two thirds of my life living in “la frontera” that I did not recognize Monterrey when I arrived. The first place I traveled to as soon as I got off the bus was to my grandfather’s house. I was accompanied by my aunts, my mother’s twin sister and her sister, and a cousin. When we arrived, I shook my grandfather’s hand, but he had no clue who I was. He shook my hand firmly and said “buenas tardes joven”, which means “good afternoon young man”. I felt a bit broken because I had been far from home for such a long time that my grandfather did not recognize who I was. The last time he had seen me I was a young boy playing with toys and watching cartoons. Now, I was an adult. Man, how does time fly by without even noticing. My old man that once said goodbye with a hug and a kiss on the cheek was now shaking my hand not knowing who I was. I was now a stranger in my own land, with my own family, with the plan of saying goodbye to my birth home and go back to what was once the unknown.
After a shake, I told him “soy Abraham, el hijo de Panchis, su hija”, “I’m Abraham, the son of Panchis, your daughter”. His eyes opened up, broke down and hugged me. The best feeling in the world when you feel reunited with your past and are able to break that border barrier. I was there to see him, tell him that I’m an adult now, that I haven’t forgotten about my roots, that I’m here for his procedure and for anything at his service, but mostly to continue the chapter that I left open from when I was a child. We spoke for a long time, he offered me some water, sat me down in what was left of my grandmother’s favorite dinning table and caught up. I showed him pictures of his great-grandson and of my beloved mother and how blessed our family has been, how our family misses everyone, and how someday we plan on coming back to Monterrey when everything is worked out. I wasn’t in Monterrey for luxury or trips, I was there because of the concerns of my family.
I spent a total of seventeen days in Nuevo Leon, helping my grandfather recuperate from his procedure, taking care of him, visiting family members that I hadn’t seen since 2002. I was able to go to the grave of my grandmother Concha, pray, thank her for the endless smiles she had brought to my life when we used to video chat, and also spoke to her on behalf of our family. I was able to apologize for not being able to attend her funeral, be with her on her last days, care for her, or do many things that we should have done, but deep down inside I knew that she understood. I knew that Mamá Concha had forgiven us before we asked for an apology and felt for one last time her warmth while being at her grave. I was able to close this chapter with my grandmother while some mariachis were playing in the background for another funeral that was going on nearby. I knew that hopefully some day, I would be able to come back and bring my own family here along with my mother who has yet to see anyone.
Advance Parole not only gave me the opportunity to travel back to my birth home, but also gave me the opportunity to be more in peace with myself and my past. This program was made for humanitarian reasons like mine, where life-or-death situations may appear and can possibly affect us greatly. I took the opportunity and risk of traveling back home and being able to see family that I had not seen in years, and knew that this was a blessing. I continue to spread the message across the Rio Grande Valley about the opportunities that Advance Parole and DACA can bring and the many doors that it may open for us. I hope that one day, a border does not define us nor separate us. I dream of the day that families, like mine who may be undocumented, will one day be able to reunite with their loved ones.