BORN: Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
STATUS: Received DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
FAMILY: Mother, Father, two sisters (one born in Mexico, the other in Milwaukee)
MAJOR: Elementary education, minor in speech, communications and Spanish, with goal of becoming a bilingual teacher
When A. entered the United States at age 3 with her mother and sister, they all had legal visas. However, her father crossed the border illegally and met up with them in Milwaukee where his extended family all lived either as citizens or permanent residents.
They came to Milwaukee, knowing their family would help them settle in, but her dad didn’t want to be so dependent on others. Once they could, the family rented a little house for about five years before moving to another house. Her second sister was born in Milwaukee, becoming a U.S. citizen.
A. regards her childhood as a happy, fulfilling time, making her who she is today. She credits her parents with giving her a good life, and making it possible for her to apply for DACA. Once approved, she applied to Stritch, decided to play on the soccer team, and got a job in a medical clinic.
In spring 2016, she tore her ACL while playing soccer and felt depressed as the recovery led to restrictions both in sport and at work. While she was still able to work at a summer camp, that limited her work at the medical clinic, and money was tight as she tried to save up for tuition.
She’s reflective as she considers the life she’s led, the ways she’s been blessed, and the alternative life she might have led in Mexico. She is able to find purpose in everything that’s happened in her life.
“I would say that my growing up as a child was very happy. We didn’t have the best of resources or anything. We just has the basics – able to pay for the bills, gas, light, food, rent – so we really didn’t have anything fancy. And I’m not complaining about it because, if anything, it’s made me a humble person. And, me being the person I am today, being very grateful for at least having that because there’s many people who don’t even have a house or anything to eat, so I’m grateful for that, knowing that my parents worked really hard to get to where we’re at right now.”
As she navigates life with all the privileges – and the limitations – of DACA, A. lives her life feeling deep gratitude, not only for being able to drive and work, but also for being able to pay taxes and begin to live like she belongs.
If they hadn’t come to the U.S…
“My dad didn’t graduate high school. My mom did, so she went to technical college for two years and got a good job. But when she came here, she lost it, so she had to start over. I feel bad that she did something with her life and she had to give all that up for her family to cross over here because we thought that we would have a better life. And I have to agree we do, compared to what they told me; Mexico is worse. We wouldn’t have what we have right now. If anything, I’m grateful. I’m not complaining or anything, but I wonder sometimes how life would be if we never came.”
When times are tough, you’re never alone
“Just be very happy and, when things get tough, you’ve just got to push through it and you can’t think you need to do it yourself. You do need help from others. There are going to be other people who are willing to help you out because they care for you.”
With great privilege comes great responsibility
“Certain people that I’ve met, they take what they have for granted. I guess you could call it ‘white privilege.’ I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. If anything, use that to help others who are in lower circumstances or don’t have that privilege that you do. Stand up for them because, if anything, if I had that, I’d always speak up for an injustice I saw because I can’t tolerate unfairness, injustice. I think it’s bogus how people are treating each other just because they are different.”
Be thankful, be present, be positive
“Having all this right now, I’m extremely thankful. I have my ups and downs but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I think everything happens for a reason. It’s made me wiser. It’s made me realize that life is short. You need to take every opportunity that you have. Don’t let it go. Try your best in everything. Give time for your family and friends. Money isn’t everything. You can make money easy, but spending time with your family and people that you’re close to is what really matters. I am thankful for what I have and I try to give back to the community as much as possible. Always give without expecting anything in return because that is what makes one a truly genuine, caring person. Always be true to yourself because those who say bad things about you without knowing your story don’t matter and those who accept you for who you are no matter what you have gone through do. You’ve gotta stay positive and that’s how I see life even though there are so many other bad things happening, you just have to stay positive.”
The toll tough times take
“I feel like, as years passed by, more stress came upon my mom and she started to really lose her health. We try to help, my sister and I, with raising our little sister who is 12. In a way we’re showing that what we’ve learned from our mom, we can now use to help her with our sister because it’s a lot of work, being a mother.”
Challenged by the unexpected
“I tore my ACL. It was bad. It was horrible for me, because nothing that bad had ever happened to me in my life. And I hit depression really badly even though I tried to stay happy, but sometimes I needed to let the sadness seep in and let it be. I tried staying strong but there is a limitation to everything and I just broke down and I would cry at night and I’d be like what if I never be able to play the same way, and I needed to accept it. I know all the people I’ve met who’ve had surgeries on their knees, they say you’ll be able to play again, but you’re never the same. You feel different, but you just have to learn to live with it.”
Never sure what tomorrow will bring
“So, it’s scary. It really is scary. What if one day I’m driving down the highway and all of a sudden a cop stops me. And I know I didn’t do anything wrong, I was within the speed limit, and everything was fine but they stopped me because of my color. Then they give me no reason why, but give me a ticket for the randomness of things. First of all, my record is clean. I don’t have any points taken away on my license. I pay car insurance. I don’t have any felony, so what did I do? And then they come up with some weird excuse and I’m like I don’t think that’s right, that’s unfair. How am I going to defend myself?”
Does DACA mean more freedoms or just a new set of limitations?
“Sometimes I wonder, if I have DACA, do I really get treated the same way as an American? Do I have the same rights? Do I not? It’s misleading. I don’t really know everything about DACA, I just know what I’ve been taught, what I’ve seen, what I’ve heard. But slowly I see that it’s a really good thing to have DACA, but it doesn’t help you much. Because there are limitations. For example, you can’t apply for FAFSA. So that leaves us with having to pay everything out of pocket. The tuition isn’t bad, but it’s really hard to save up money when you have so many expenses to pay for – gas, transportation, food, car insurance, books, supplies and everything. And then, knowing that also you can’t get loans, it’s like – ugh. I mean there are private loans, but you really have to look into them and have a family member who is a citizen sign off on them. So that’s another limitation. Then also knowing that the only schools that you could really go to that would help you with scholarships are this school, Cardinal Stritch University, because they help out a lot with scholarships, or Milwaukee Area Technical College. That’s the only two colleges I know, because the rest are super expensive. You would have to be really good at school, really smart, and get into a scholarship program where they pay everything off, but it’s so hard because there are so many other competitors and they are at the same level. And what are the odds that you get it – like one in a million. So it’s really hard. I’m thankful for DACA, but there are limitations, too.”
DACA brings a sense of belonging
“I’m very thankful because without it I wouldn’t be able to work where I’m working – at a clinic on the south side. I was thankful I was able to get that job. And also thankful to be able to get my driver’s license because without it, especially in Milwaukee, like in other parts of Wisconsin, if you get pulled over without it, you get a big ticket, especially if you don’t have car insurance, too. I’m able to open a bank account and pay my taxes, which is amazing, too. I consider myself a citizen – I’ve done my part. I feel like I’ve done everything a normal American would do. I feel a part of this country as much as they do.”
If DACA is discontinued
“If that happens, what are we left with? We don’t know what Mexico is like. We don’t remember. I was just three years old when I left. You think I remember anything? I don’t. How am I going to start over? I feel like I would lose everything. I mean I have my education and all my experience and everything, but, having to start over, it’s scary. I’ve created a foundation for myself here. I want to make a change here. I’m studying to be an elementary education teacher. So I want to teach my kids all these things about life.”
Stritch scholarships prove to be key
“I chose Stritch because I heard it was a really good school for teachers; the education department is amazing. I mean it was founded as a an education school and I was like, yeah, might as well, if they have a hard-core foundation in education through all those years, then their program must be really strong, especially with all those years of experience and everything. And then they offered a lot of scholarships, obviously and it was a small school; I don’t really like big schools. Then I also heard about the soccer team and decided to try for it.”