By Diana Vasquez, Mar. 02, 2021
My parents migrated from Mexico so that my sister and I could have a better life, but their decision to migrate came with some of the hardest consequences other ethnic groups may not recognize; being an immigrant in the United States is not easy, and it’s time for others, along with myself, to urge for immigration reform.
Each day that passes without a reform, millions of immigrant families face mental, physical, or financial hardships.
My biggest fear is that my parents will not make it back in time to hug my grandparents one last time. My parents may leave the United States, but they would not be able to return. If they left, my sister and I would have to figure out how to survive on our own. It’s difficult to see how my father works two part-time jobs to make ends meet for our family, yet the only reason he continues is to watch my sister and I focus on school to work for a better future for ourselves.
My father left his home at age 18 and is now 51 years old. It has been 33 years without seeing his parents. I am so afraid that one day I might have to live with a guilty conscience, that I was part of the reason they were not able to be reunited. COVID-19 has only increased these anxieties because my grandparents are older. This is a common theme in my community where people are burdened with the distress of knowing that their parents sacrificed everything for them, including family separation.
Don’t get me wrong; I am grateful for everything I have: a loving family, the opportunity to obtain a higher education and all the materialistic items that comes with living in the United States, like access to warm water and gas. But it has also been hard to live without my entire family, hard to watch my parents kill themselves every day in their labor-intensive jobs and hard to see how with each passing day, there is no change.
I want to see more people fighting for the causes of immigration. Immigrants are constantly being exploited for their labor. When my dad’s supervisors call him to work in construction, they pay him the very minimum. I wonder to myself, do these people recognize how much a professional company would charge for labor like that?
The problems immigrant families face does not stop at wage unfairness in labor jobs.
The uncertainty of DACA in the last few years has reignited fears about deportation and future employment. Not only did these students not qualify for stimulus funding in the CARES Act in 2020, but their cost of tuition is higher as they still face eligibility problems for federal grants and programs. Many may fear for the deportation of their families. According to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration services, approximately 89,000 DACA students were based in the Los Angeles metropolitan area in 2018.
Families are being separated every day, and some are being sent to detention centers. According to CNN, in 2020, 21 people died in custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. My cousin is at risk of being deported in May because he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time and he may not be able to meet his son who will be born in April. Family separation is so inhumane — to know that my nephew may not meet his father is heartbreaking.
The pandemic has only increased the necessities for immigrants. They become the most vulnerable to be exposed to COVID-19 due to disproportionately working essential jobs and lacking health care. Imagine becoming sick and being scared to go to the hospital because you are undocumented. According to a UCLA Health study, COVID-19 devastated Latino communities that hold an average of three to four Latino workers per household who left for work compared to other non-Hispanic groups. This study signified that the reason for high COVID-19 rates among Hispanic communities is because they have more adults leave their household for work than other ethnic groups.
The time for change is now. We must keep pressuring our government to do better for the people who came to chase the American dream and contribute to society every day.
However, the new presidential administration has brought some hope. President Joe Biden proposed the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress on Nov. 19, 2020, which is said to give an eight-year pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. This bill would include groups like Dreamers, Temporary Protective Status holders and undocumented farm workers. It also includes immigrants who have been physically present in the United States on or before the date of Jan. 1 but would first need to meet other requirements to apply for a temporary legal status.
Biden also attempted to put an emphasis on family reunification in detention centers and urged government officials to drop the term alien and use noncitizen instead. Will his promises become true?
Biden has shown initiative when it comes to using his executive power. On Jan. 24, he lifted a freeze on green cards issued by Trump in spring 2020 in order to protect the pandemic’s job market.
Yet, Biden has also brought in some controversy to the immigration issue. The administration opened up its first migrant facility for undocumented children on Jan. 22. This facility is being revisited by children migrants once again after opened by Trump in the summer of 2019.
Why is our new president repeating similar steps by keeping minors in government facilities away from their parents? What makes our government think this is okay to continue?
Biden may stand for our community more than our last presidents, but that does not make the road ahead any easier. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is a proposed law that will take months to review and pass. Unfortunately, we have also seen in the past how few bills actually become laws.
I keep praying for immigration reform that would allow families to reunite and workers to earn a fair wage. It would allow families to buy property in the United States. DACA students would have access to government aid and be confident when applying to jobs. This reform would make a huge change in the life of students and families. My sister once said, “If the immigration reform were to pass, it would fix all our problems.”
I hope people outside the immigrant community can recognize the struggles we face and will aid us in the fight for a change. Recognizing that there is a problem with the immigration system is step one. Protesting and electing officials that care about our community is step two. When we stand together, anything is possible.
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