I Got My Green Card After 21 Years
Here are some reflections growing up undocumented in the United States
A couple of months ago I received an envelope that contained some life-changing documents.
Inside the envelope were 3 documents:
A cover sheet with legal jargon about the contents envelope
A brochure that read "WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES"
A GREEN CARD with my name on it
If you've followed my Twitter account for a while, then you know the story by now. However, here is a quick refresher for those who may be unfamiliar —
My family and I arrived in the United States in 2000, a little over 21 years ago. In 2006, a lawyer mishandled our case, resulting in our immigration status.
I was undocumented by 2007, which was the same year I graduated from high school and was told that my LACK of status would keep me from college. There was no DACA, and in-state tuition for undocumented students who lived in Florida would not become available for another seven years.
I know that if I wanted to go to college to continue my education and show people that my immigration status would not hold me back, I had to dedicate myself to politics.
For the past 15 years, I have fought tooth and nail for federal policy that would result in a path to citizenship or some form of relief for undocumented immigrants across the country.
I've celebrated state/local wins and mourned the loss of what could've been at the federal level. Unfortunately, I've seen multiple versions of the Dream Act fail and various iterations of comprehensive reform go up in flames right before my eyes.
However, I remained confident and persistent throughout all those years despite my growing cynicism.
As of this writing, no major immigration legislation has been signed into law. Although Congress is considering passing immigration relief as part of the Build Back Better Act. We'll have to wait and see if that provision makes it on the final bill and makes it to the President's desk.
The immigration journey I've been on, while exhausting, has taught me so much about myself — it hardened me, taught me NEVER to take no for an answer, and turned me into a cynic for longer than I care to remember.
For six years (2006-2012), I had to grow up in survival mode — fearing deportation, looking over my shoulder, and (at times) helping my friends and family even when I didn't have all of the answers. The past 21 years were part luck, part anxiety, and equal parts friendship.
I had to navigate college without DACA protections [DACA is a federal program that President Obama started in 2012 — it defers the deportation of over 700,000 immigrants and provides us with the ability to work and drive in two-year intervals] and when the program came to life, I decided to go back to school to pursue a Masters degree.
Yet, I knew the program could collapse on itself at any moment — which is sort of where we find ourselves. The DACA program is under threat by federal courts, and unless Congress acts this year, millions of immigrants (including DACA recipients) will be left vulnerable to deportation.
It will take a LONG time to heal the wounds, scars, and trauma from the immigration fight.
I'm lucky, in a sense, because I now have what I always wanted — but not without a sense of loss and deep sadness. Impostor syndrome and survivor's guilt will undoubtedly emerge within me again. As I begin to adjust to being a "legal permanent resident," I am thankful to the people who helped and believed in me along the way.
Right now, neither parents nor younger brothers have a path towards a Green Card. I was able to obtain mine through my spouse, who is the love of my life. Hopefully, Congress takes action soon so that they can get some form of immigration relief.
I hope to write more about this new chapter of my life in the coming year — as even as I write this, there are friends, acquaintances, and people who think my Green Card would arrive "one day" just like that. Heck, some think my Green Card makes me a U.S. Citizen, which is not the case at all.
For now, I look forward to settling in this new chapter of my life and continue to ponder the words printed on the brochure that arrived inside the envelope back in October — "WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES."
** This post is an adaptation of a Twitter thread I posted back in October 2021 **