My name is Maria Barragan and I’m undocumented and unafraid. This is the story that I shared at the “Coming Out of the Shadows” rally that was held in April when we marched, not because we were protesting, but to inspire you to fight for your goals! Never give up because everything is possible!
I was born in Guadalajara Jalisco and came to the United States at the age of nine. My family decided to migrate because they wanted to give me and my siblings a better life and education. I knew all along I was different from my classmates but it never affected me until I was in middle school and I experienced for the first time how hard education was going to be.
My sister had struggled to reach her goals so she decided to go back to Mexico. My senior year of high school I saw my friends cry because their dream school was far or they couldn’t afford it because they were undocumented.
On my 18th birthday my brother was deported. That was when reality slapped me across the face! He is still in Mexico and working there but it is hard because his ex-wife had remarried and his son doesn’t understand where daddy is.
I got my second reality check during my second year of college when I was ready to transfer. My grandmother was very ill and my mother couldn’t go to see her. It was heart breaking when my grandmother called to say good bye. Hearing my brother scream over the phone, “Grandma please don’t go! I love you!” was just hard. Men in my family don’t cry and to see him cry just opened my eyes.
One day I came home from school tired, ready to do homework and my mom told me, “Mija, I am going back to Mexico. I need to see your Grandma. It’s been eleven years and I need to say goodbye. Your papa promised to save money to pay for my coyote so I will be back si Dio quiere. Take care of the family, you are now the woman in charge.”
My life changed completely. A 20 year old was not so ready for that! But, thank God, my mother is back. Seeing people struggle has kept me going. Seeing my family being separated has kept me strong. Now that I am in college I am very grateful because my dreams have not been crushed.
This is my third year at Chaffey and I just realized that being undocumented is just another culture. It is an identity. It is something we should all feel proud of. Being undocumented is a beautiful thing.
A group of us banded together to push for immigration reform. We started meeting at Montclair but recently, we meet at Chaffey. We call ourselves SAFE, Student Alliance for Education. We have plans not only to register officially as a club, work for reform and to share information, but to perform charitable work. We’re a non-profit.
We started with about 10 people but we are growing When we held a Coming out of the Shadows rally on April 3, we got a big turnout. I didn’t think a lot of people would come and join us but they did. We made a lot of flilers but some people were taking the fliers down. I noticed some people that were standing there, watching. They were’t okay with what we were doing. I even had one guy come and say he was going to call the cops to send us back.
Some of us started freaking out when the campus policemen came out of their office, but they were just curious about what was going on, so it was okay.
April 30 is Children’s Day in Mexico, a festive traditional holiday and we have plans to collect toys to give to the children in an orphanage. It’s a very special day for those of us who have grown up in Mexico. Even if we bring used toys, the children will be okay with that.
As an undocumented community, we should be thankful for Deferred Action but we shouldn’t use that to hide the fact that we are still undocumented. Deferred Action is an opportunity for people to embrace the fact that they are undocumented. It is part of who we are and we shouldn’t be ashamed of representing and making it a new culture.
With Deferred Action we are protected but the fight continues. We shouldn’t stop here because deferred action is only going to last a while.
Deferred Action protects us…but what about our parents? We would like something for them too.
March is the month for the undocumented community to come out of the shadows and celebrate their culture by sharing their stories. It is a month to come together and let others know we exist and that we aren’t gonna stop dreaming!