My name is Edy and I.M. Beyond Borders. From the streets of Chicago, I created a band called Quinto Imperio because music was the tool that made me free. It became a safe space for a few neighborhood friends and my family to express our immigrant roots. With advance parole, I recently returned from Mexico City where I finally saw my grandmother and she made me feel stronger than ever. Community, understand that DACA wasn’t given to us. It was obtained thanks to a national effort of community organizers, activists, allies, etc. So, if this was taken away, we can’t just panic and cry, we have to get involved and join the movement to defend our rights. I urge you to find something that gives you strength like music and my grandmother did and fight for your rights. Check out how I did. #ISupportEddy #ISupportDACA
I was fifteen years old when I arrived to Chicago. What was supposed to be a holiday visit to my family already living in the U.S. for about three years, soon became one of the most difficult challenges I’ve had to encounter. First of all, my parents had just separated. As the older brother of two (one who was six and the other who was ten), I understood they needed me and I definitely needed them. Growing in the middle of our unfortunate family situation, trying to find our place in a new country, and adapting to our new life all at the same time was an energy-drainer.
It’d be redundant to describe all the difficulties we encountered keeping up with school-- learning the language, fitting in, etc. What left a mark in me was to see them working nonstop. It was sad to see my parents frustrated and exhausted after working long hours and still feeling they weren’t able to come afloat...
For about two years, we would only see our dad for 30 minutes early in the morning before school and late in the evening before going to bed, if we were lucky. He would come home barely able to smile with his clothes dirty and smelly from working at the recycling facility where he handled all types of waste. We would see our mom mostly during weekends. While she did her best to spend time with us, we could clearly see she was exhausted. We would conform to laying next to her while she slept just enough to wake up and head out to work at the recycling facility as well. They didn’t give up and little by little things were improving. It has never been easy, but after many other jobs, my mom found a better opportunity and my dad attended college while working as a taxi driver.
In difficult moments of our life we all need hope and something to hold on to:
“Somos inmigrantes, luchadores de la vida
Generador de riqueza de frontera a frontera voy dejando mi sudor.
Somos inmigrantes, arriesgamos nuestras vidas.
Escalando nuestros sueños pero unos se han quedado en la intención”
(“We’re immigrants, life warriors.
We create richness, from border to border my sweat is proof of my work
We are immigrants, we bet our lives
Climbing, reaching up towards our dreams, sadly many fall on the way”)
Those are some of the lyrics of an awesome song, Crónica Inmigrante (Immigrant Chronicle), I co-wrote for my band Quinto Imperio. Three years had passed when I graduated from high school. I was so fed up with all the obstacles and the impotence we felt in my family and my whole community, that I formed a band with my siblings because music was the only tool I had to be free. There was so much fear and lack of hope that nobody would speak about their status publicly. This band, at first, was just a family project that helped my brothers and I stay sane and focused. Later, it became a safe space for a few neighborhood friends and my family. We wanted something else to do with our brains other than stressing about our immigration status. We realized that talent is never dependent on your heritage, race, gender, color, and especially immigration status. Singing, dancing cumbia, and performing around in community festivals around the city of Chicago, we discovered a voice we didn’t know was there... we felt stronger.
It had been sixteen years since I initially arrived to U.S. and I hadn’t been able to see my grandparents. Unfortunately, my both of my grandfathers passed away before I could say goodbye. It was a very painful experience to see my parents suffering from afar the loss of their loved ones. Staying hopeful is very hard, but we channeled our energy by accompanying others in our community. Through our parish, Holy Cross/ Immaculate Heat of Mary in the Back of the Yards, we worked with youth, families, organized people in defense of immigrant rights, and kept on making music. Some time ago, I wrote a song that talks about the nostalgia that we all feel missing our loved ones, the conflicting emotions, and desire to go back, yet working hard to earn a place in this country. “Quiero regresar al barrio, desde donde hace años yo salí. Aunque aquí mucha gente me quiere, mi corazón te extraña a tí” (I want to go back to the place where I departed so many years ago. Many people here love me, but my heart still misses you). Who would have imagined that just a few days after finalizing the recording of that song, three of us would actually have the opportunity to travel back and reconnect with some of the people we left behind awaiting our return. Thanks to an activist friend who had already traveled with advance parole, a group of people was formed and was invited to a conference in Mexico City. I was very fortunate to be part of it. We organized a fundraiser and sought legal aid to apply for advance parole. Our applications were filed and although we weren’t sure what the outcome would be, we prepared as if we all got approved. Fortunately, we all did.
We left to Mexico City, my hometown, on December 14th 2016. The conference exposed us to the current economic state of Mexico and the immigration situation from Central and South America to and through Mexico. We were able to hear from immigrants the ordeal on their way out of their countries and even within Mexico. These are mostly heart breaking stories of fear, love, resilience, and hope. One man said “we all know we are risking our lives, but we did for love” (This instantly made me think of my parents, how much they risked, how much they lost, and how much they gave for my siblings and I. I’m very grateful for all the love they have showed through their sacrifices).
After the conference I took a bus to my parents pueblito, the most important reason to risk denial of reentry to the U.S. There’s where I reunited with my maternal grandma… I hugged her and tried my best to withhold my tears, but I was way too happy and sad at the same time that I couldn’t contain myself any longer. My grandma just hugged me tighter and said “no llore mi chiquito” (Don’t cry my little one). I was so grateful to God for allowing me to kiss my grandma and look at her in the eyes and smile at each other. It was the most amazing feeling. During my trip I also reconnected with cousins I grew up with... and met their children! I couldn’t believe it! My cousins who I remembered as wild and lacking seriousness were now taking care of their own children. It was beautiful to see my uncles and childhood friends.
By December 31st it was time to come back to Chicago along three other members of the group (the rest stayed longer) so we boarded the plane and were very fortunate to have a smooth entry process although we were very nervous (We all know peers who were mistreated and intimidated on their way back to the U.S. by an immigration officer). When I got my passport stamped and we were all together ready to leave the airport, that’s when we finally took a breath and hugged each other. We had an amazing trip and were able to come back. We all felt very blessed.
Due to the current political environment that points at immigrants with hate more openly than before, our situation as undocumented immigrants with DACA could potentially be downgraded. For many of us, while it would be unfortunate, we already know what it is like to live without it. The concern is really for students who received DACA just when they were in high school, transitioned to college, and/ or received a job too soon before realizing what an undocumented status meant. In fact, many might not even fully understand the limitations we had such as: inability to travel, inability to obtain a driver's license, inability to apply for a job, etc. This is not for certain and won’t be until the new administration takes office. All we can do for now is pay attention to any changes that might take place and look for community organizations that can provide information, assistance, and legal aid.
Most importantly is to understand that DACA wasn’t given to us, it was obtained thanks to a national effort of community organizers, activists, allies, etc. So, if this was taken away from us, we can’t just panic and cry, we have to get involved and join the movement to defend our rights. We can’t expect anybody to do anything for us, or to grant us things. We have to take charge of our life and defend it in unity… do not give up.
“No papers, don’t give up. Success is on the way.
No papers, don’t give up. Be stronger day by day.
Day by day now, day by day, we don’t give up now, day by day.
Day by day now, day by day, we keep going now, day by day.”