citizenshipBeing an undocumented immigrant comes with a myriad of challenges and uncertainties that are sometimes too much to handle. The struggles are very real. In fact, so real that I can’t plan my future too far in advance because I don’t know how much longer I have here in the states. I’ve made it this far, but it hasn’t been easy, and it’s not getting any easier.

When I crossed the US/Mexico border with my parents at age four, none of us expected that life in America was going to be like this. When I was born, we were extremely poor. Our house had dirt floors and no electricity or running water. My parents were courageous when they decided to leave the little, but everything, they had to give me a better future. We didn’t have the money or influence to apply for a VISA or to come here legally. Even if we had the money, we would probably still be on the waiting list today, 16 years later. The immigration laws are extremely outdated and help very few people. My dad’s last resort was to risk his life crossing the border to a foreign land, in hopes that he would find a job or at least have a decent living. My mom later joined him in Northern KY where they both worked two minimum wage jobs while living with my three uncles in a tiny apartment. When they finally made enough money, it was my turn to join them. We crossed the border as a family in 2000 and the rest is history.

Every immigration story is different. We all come from different places and have different goals, but we are all seeking a better future here in the United States. For some it’s harder than others. Many can only dream of becoming a citizen. In my case, even if I wanted to apply for citizenship, I couldn’t because when I was four I crossed without inspection. That’s why the laws need to change. Immigrants are a vital part of The United States and its culture. Many undocumented immigrants work low paying jobs that may seem insignificant but are taken for granted. Often times they’re underpaid or even exploited because the employer knows of their immigration status. When ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is in town, a simple trip to the grocery store you’ve been going to for the past two decades all of a sudden could end up being a trip to jail and eventually deportation.

We are your neighbors, your classmates, your friends. Lacking a nine-digit number is the only thing that sets me apart from you. And of course, all the travails that come with not having that number.

Our life is becoming especially difficult this year with immigration being at the forefront of debate for the wrong political reasons. I wouldn’t like to think that Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States, but it’s a possibility. He’s already made it this far and a lot of people seem to agree with him. Regardless of who the president is though, we still need to be reaching out to our legislators and elected officials to see what can be done. Be an advocate to immigrants who are living in fear of speaking out because of their status. Do not just be a voice for the voiceless, but also empower those voices. Our future is in your hands. You can vote!

On a smaller scale, something that can be an immediate action and can make a huge impact is starting to think about immigration. Yes, think about it. Pray on it. Talk to your friends about it. Take it upon yourself to find out more information or to reach out to people. And please, please, please vote!

Heyra Avila is a sophomore from Veracruz, Mexico. Majoring in PPP and Theology. She is always happy to answer questions and share her story with others. She welcomes you to learn more and engage with XU 4 Immigration here, a student group that seeks to raise awareness regarding difficulties faced by immigrants locally.