By Ana Salgado, Sept. 13, 2022
After years of applications, the US Immigration Services finally set up a meeting with my mother to determine whether she would be eligible for a visa. However, they denied her application on the basis that she brought me into the nation when I was a baby.
She must now pay for a 12-year waiver of immigration in Mexico, leaving 21-year-old me with numerous responsibilities such as caring for my three younger siblings in my role as the oldest. This is utterly unfair and outrageous.
My mother has a spotless record, pays her taxes on time and is always giving back to her community. She is not a burden on the U.S., yet she won’t be able to see me graduate from a great university like Cal Poly Pomona in the spring. It sickens my heart to think that she won’t get to see her children grow and reach major life milestones.
When a mother is separated from her children, her life is severely harmed. When a mother leaves, her children might no longer be able to communicate with her or understand her intentions and ambitions. Risks for children include instability. Family separation can be extremely challenging.
In the final weeks of summer break, a doctor at the Chino Valley Medical Center told me, “I’m assuming you experienced an anxiety attack because of how stressed and anxious you are, and these attacks will happen regularly. You must learn how to manage your stress and keep physical and emotional control.”
I was concerned because I struggled with stress management and was unaware of how anxiety could impact my body at such a young age.
According to a mixed-methods study of anxiety in undocumented Latinx college students, about 29% of American adults have one or more diagnosable anxiety disorders, the number of adult Latinx immigrants who receive this diagnosis is estimated to be closer to 15%. This study might show lower rates of anxiety and mental health problems among immigrants compared to Latinx legal residents in the U.S., suggesting that they may be doing better overall, but such statistics may also reflect underused services and limits due to linguistic and cultural barriers.
I frequently ask “Why?” It has been challenging for me to comprehend why things have turned out the way they have. I was unsure of the cause of the heaviness in my chest and heart and the inability to breathe, so I went to the hospital and got checked out.
It seems insane to me that a buildup of stress and anxiety could cause my body to suddenly react in such a way at any given time, and it could all start with a chest pain. To say that anxiety or stress are some of the non-life-threatening causes of chest pain in my hospital paperwork is absurd. My anxiety attack was a result of stress brought on by worrying about my mother, which caused my body to react in a way that mimicked a heart attack or a stroke.
The American Institute of Stress found that 32% of individuals who reported feeling stressed at some point in their lives also acknowledged having suicidal thoughts. Therefore, understanding this issue is crucial. You could die from stress, and stress is one of the causes of anxiety.
Being vulnerable with someone is never easy, especially when the topic is delicate like immigration. When discussing topics like immigration with students, CPP staff should be more open and inclusive.
I feel CPP staff should be more encouraging and not simply jump at the chance to offer resources, but it goes beyond that; it’s about giving students the sense that faculty are open to students who are pursuing higher education and aren’t naturalized in the U.S.
Despite this, a 2016 report estimated 550 CPP students received an AB 540 affidavit, a California law that “provides qualified students a waiver of the non-resident tuition requirements.” This substantial number, however, does not account for undocumented students who do not meet the AB 540 eligibility. It is important to keep this in mind because anyone could be experiencing this traumatic event. Even though not everyone is willing to disclose sensitive information, it is essential to know that there is always support available.
Nobody is ever too ignorant to ask a question, and I encourage students of all backgrounds dealing with immigration, undocumentation and separated families to educate themselves and their families. I am conscious of the fact that I do not experience this struggle alone, and I support everyone who may be facing similar circumstances.
Feature image by Lauren Wong.
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