I have always respected, loved, and looked up to my father. Every day since I could remember, I see my father come home from work, dragging his feet and looking drained. Throughout his pain and tiredness, he would always put a smile on when he saw me. Growing up, I was always terrified of one thing. My biggest fear was my father going to work,to make money to provide for my family, but not returning. My heart would skink to the bottom of my stomach whenever he drove and a patrol car approached us. My reason for this fear? My father was an immigrant from México.
My father is one of 8 children that my grandparents had. He came to the United States in the late 90’s. He was around 18 at the time. He had left behind his siblings and his mother for a better life and future for his kids. One of his older brothers, JoseLuis, had already lived in the states. He hired my dad at his work for construction. They are both foremen now. Throughout his entire life here in the states, he has only seen JoseLuis. This broke my father’s heart.
I grew up with two Mexican-born parents. My first language was even Spanish, which would change once I got enrolled in school. My parents tried their hardest to teach us our culture and roots. I had so much trouble connecting with my culture. I had so much guilt due to how much privilege I had compared to those in Mexico. How could I call myself Mexican if I couldn’t hold a conversation in Spanish?
Throughout the years, my parents worked really hard in the process of my dad’s immigration status. They spent thousands of dollars on tests and documents that the immigration lawyer needed. In the fall of 2018, our lives were about to change forever. My mother received a call from the immigration lawyer. They had approved my father’s process but needed one thing. They needed my father to leave United States territory. They needed him to hop on a plane to Ciudad Juárez to meet with a Mexican immigration officer. This person had my father’s life, and my whole family’s, in his hand. With him saying no, he would separate my family and still get a good night’s sleep. I felt so useless. It was too late to turn back.
“Do you have to go, Papi?”
“Tengo que ir,mi amor.”
Translating to “I have to go, my love”. I cried on my mother’s (lap or shoulder) months before he even had to go. I thought the absolute worst. My poor father alone,in a country he hasn’t called home in 20 years.
The day I dreaded for months came. My father had to leave the United States. Was it temporary? Would he be stuck there forever? Would I have to move there? So many questions that we did not know the answer to yet. My father left,my mother joining him. My brother and I were left alone with my grandma,who we do not have a good relationship with. I drowned my pillow in tears. I would call my parents every night. Every single night. No matter how much we talked, when we got to the final “I love you. Bye,” I bawled. I couldn’t help it. I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy. I was still going to school during this period. I would go to school with no smile,no energy, not even for my closest friends. I would ask to use the bathroom in the middle of class. I never went to the bathroom. I went on walks instead to keep myself from breaking down again at the thought of my father never returning to his life that he built for himself.
Days after my parents arrived to Mexico, they met with an immigration officer. This was it. This is what my parents had spent thousands of dollars on. My father went into the interview alone. My mother, outside the building, paced for two hours. Two hours of being in the dark. My father came out of the room. Tears falling. “Oh no,” my mother thought. She saw her life change in a matter of seconds. Or she thought she did. They were tears of happiness. The immigration officer had granted my father permission to be a legal resident of the United States of America. My parents called me after the interview. I was in school, but that didn’t matter, my father did. I cried when I heard the news. This meant my fears were no more.
Their trip had lasted two weeks. Two painful weeks. I hugged my father with the intention of never letting go. This changed so many things for my whole family. This meant we could finally meet my family. My father can now visit his mother’s grave. He couldn’t attend her funeral because of his immigration status. He finally saw her in 2019. Even in death, she looked as beautiful and graceful. My family now has everything they could ever want in life. I still thank the immigration officer every day in my head. He let me keep my family.