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Rooted in the American Dream: Voices of Immigrants — Maria’s Story

August 29, 2013

“Rooted in the American Dream: Voices of Immigrants” is a series of immigrant stories. The phrase “Rooted in the American Dream” comes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech as he said his dream of racial equality is “deeply rooted in the American Dream.” Read “Towards Just & Human Immigration Reform” and see the end of the article for how Mercy works to make these dreams a reality.

A priest an an immigration reform rally

A priest an an immigration reform rally

My name is Maria. I am from Guatemala City, Guatemala. I came to the United States in 2002— April 9 at 4:00 pm to be exact. I came to the United States after my mom made the decision that she was going to take more time in the United States than she estimated. At the beginning she thought she was going to be in the United States for about two years but it had been almost four years and her two kids were still in Guatemala.

My brother and I were left in Guatemala and separated after she left our country trying to reach the American Dream. I was taken to my uncle’s house and my brother was taken to my grandmother’s house because it was too expensive for my family to take two kids and raise them in the same house.


First my mom tried to pay someone to help me cross the border and walk through the desert. I was nine years old and my brother was eleven when he decided to stay with grandma and I decided that I wanted to be with my mom. I was ready to do anything possible to be by her side. At the beginning it was hard. I was only nine and it was very difficult and scary to walk for days and not eat at all. There were others days were we had to take different buses and were not able to sleep at all. We were supposed to cross two borders: the Guatemalan-Mexican border and the Mexican-American border. We were only able to cross the first border before we were arrested by a Mexican Immigration officer and were deported back to Guatemala after a few days of being in jail. After being deported my mother found someone else to bring me to the United States in a different way. I was given a new name and a fake parent and came to the USA in a very comfortable airplane. Within a day I reached the USA, exactly a month after failing to cross the Mexican-American border. I was able to reunite with my mother almost after 5 years.

My brother did not have the same luck. He actually had to walk the Mexican desert and had to sleep and suffer in those hot summer days in the terrible Arizona Desert. I saw my brother four years after I came to the United States (he came in 2008). A couple of years later he didn’t recognize my mother and me. Since then we have had a very distant relationship with my brother. The reason behind it, I believe, is the fact that he suffered more than I did to come to the United States.


Currently my brother and I are still with mom and have graduated from Crete High School in May of 2011. My mother had a work permit for about eight years before she applied for residency and did not meet the US Immigration Services requirements and was given a deportation order. She did not want to leave the country because she wanted a better future for her kids. She appealed the decision until she got a response that the deportation order was taken off and she could stay with us for a couple more years. She is still with us but with the fear that any day ICE could get her and deport her to Guatemala. There is nothing wrong with going back to the country where we were born but it does worry us that they will take our mother and separate her from us once again. It is a constant fear that not only my family but other families have to face.


Immigration reform would benefit every person in my family. We all would be able to apply for a work permit, apply for residency and hopefully a citizenship. The US has been home to my brother and I as we have been here more than 10 years–half of our lives. Immigration reform will help our family sleep better at night without fear that the next day one of us will be gone because of deportation or arrested for being an undocumented person.


Throughout the country faith leaders, immigrant rights activists and concerned citizens are attending town halls, hosting prayer vigils and meeting with their representatives at their in-district offices. To build on this momentum, Mercy’s Extended Justice Team will be hosting, free roundtable discussions featuring faith and business leaders, law enforcement and representatives of the immigrant voice in three key congressional districts across the country: Cincinnati, OH on August 27; Chicago, IL on August 29; and Omaha, NE on September 3. These events are open to the media and public. Please RSVP to specifying which event you plan to attend or visit the Facebook Event Page for Cincinnati (2pm and 7pm), Chicago and Omaha. Follow along on Twitter at @MercyCIR and @SistersofMercy. Join the conversation using #JustCIR.

Note: Maria’s name has been changed to protect the identity of her family

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Boss Tweed

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