My brother turns 28 this year. He has lived in this country since he was a year old. My mother travelled to the United States as an undocumented immigrant because she was escaping a civil war in Nicaragua. She lived in fear that her son would have to grow up with the same life she had, living in a country embroiled in war and poverty. My mother was single and worked very hard to raise my brother on her own. She came to the U.S. to provide my brother with a far better life than she had. Many know America for being a land of dreams and opportunities. After all it was these ideals that the country was built upon. However, those who are not citizens of this country live instead as outsiders in what is the only home they have ever known.
Growing up and hearing all the negativity that surrounded undocumented immigration made me embarrassed of what my mother had done. It was such a faux pas I would constantly lie to others and say she came legally to the U.S. Now that I am older and understand the depth of what she did and the courageous decision she made I could not be more proud. She went on a dangerous journey and risked not only her life but also my brother’s in coming to the U.S. She is an inspiration to me and everyday I am thankful for the opportunity she gave my brother and the life she gave me.
Although my mother is a legal resident of the U.S. now, it is not the case for my brother. The most heartbreaking pain I feel is having to know that my brother is not able to do some of the most essential things in life, not because he is unable to but because he is not allowed to. He cannot drive a car without having the fear of getting pulled over and caught without a license, he cannot go to college because he does not have an identification, his potential promotions or getting a better job can not be achieved, and while I have travelled the world from Europe to Latin America where I was able to meet my entire mother’s side of my family, he has never been able to step outside this country. I remember when I told him I was studying abroad in France last year he could not have been prouder and happier for me and hearing his words “I wish I could go with you,” was one of the most painful moments in my life. He always promised me that he would be the one to take me to France to reward me for all my accomplishments and I knew it hurt him that he wasn't able to.
He lives a wonderful life despite everything and does all he can to achieve the goals he has set for himself. He has a beautiful wife, just bought a car and a house, and owns an adorable dog. He supports my mom after she got in an accident at work and makes it so that she has everything she needs. From the outside you would believe he has a picture perfect life, but that is far from his reality. Seeing what he has to go through everyday is what inspired me to get involved in the realm of immigration advocacy. I know that this issue is very personal but it is also one that affects 11 million people that live in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. I have the aspiration to go to law school and study immigration law so that I can work at an organization that provides legal services for undocumented immigrants. I am using my voice to stand up and say something needs to be done about our broken immigration system. They should not have to live an inadequate life, lost in between the cracks of a system. We must do better because they deserve better.
Each year my brother and I recap our lives thus far and inspire and push each other to set new goals to achieve. We are each other’s support system and if I were to ever lose him to this broken immigration system it would be something I could not bear. I love him more than my world and I swear to him that I will dedicate my life to changing his life and the lives of those like him. This is for you Victor so that you never give up and keep working as hard as you do. I’m praying that come your next birthday we can go out and see the world together.