My parents have been living in this country for over 20 years. There might have been some uncertainty among my parents in their first years here, but it dissipated once they settled in. When neighbors stopped frantically shouting “la migra” (slang for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), it was a sign that life was good. We rarely spoke of the unthinkable—what I should do if I came home from school and my parents weren’t there. We found our home.
In those 20 years, there was never any fear of going out for a late afternoon drive or a quick stroll down the street, but that all changed. Despite living in California – “the capital of liberal America” – fear has settled in the homes of many immigrant families. That fear moved in on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, the night America elected a bully into office. The bully’s name? Donald J. Trump. The world turned upside down. Roles have been reversed. My parents told me never to open the door without checking, but now it’s me telling them not to answer the knock of what could be ICE officers. The America my parents arrived to was beginning to change.
With Inauguration Day well behind us, the only thing we can do is prepare ourselves for the aftermath of coming home to the absence of our parents. For us, this reality is our biggest nightmare; for President Trump’s administration, however, it is simply fulfilling a campaign promise.
My family hails from Mexico, but they recognize the United States of America as their home, and I’ll be damned if anyone tries to tell them otherwise. The United States has always been a safe place for my family and I believe it should stay that way for years to come.
It is the place where my parents fell in love with Thai food, one of their first dishes in America. It is the place where my uncle fostered a parental relationship with an English fashion designer. It is the place where my cousin is learning the Japanese art of Judo. America is the place where different cultures blend beautifully to create a culture of our own, a culture we’re all part of. There’s nothing quite like it.
The future might seem bleak, but if there is one thing we can hold on to, it’s hope, the strongest of emotions. Hope has made it possible for me to put on a smile every day. It’s made it possible for me to go through a school day and worry only about what’s on the lunch menu (it’s bad 90% of the time). It’s made it possible for me to go out and kick ass. We never know if we’ll ever get tomorrow. It’s something my mom reminds me of every day when I ask her what she’s going to prepare for dinner the next day; it’s something my dad reminds me of when I ask him what are our plans for the weekend. It is today that counts, so make the best of it.
At the end of the day, we are Americans, we are not illegal immigrants, we are humans with the same unalienable rights no matter where we come from. Whether or not we have the documentation, it is the inside that counts: the values we share and the ideals we believe in. That’s what makes us American, what makes us human.
Writing by Luis Valente
Art by Alexia Sambrano
Join us Feb. 16 as students perform their work live through spoken word, music, video and theatre on in downtown L.A. RSVP here.