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Mexican in the Age of Trump – The Human Cost of Nationalism and Fear – Part I

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My home town is Chihuahua, Mexico just four hours away from the border between Juarez and El Paso, Texas. I will never forget walking over the bridge under the Rio Bravo. I was crossing legally with my visa and all my papers in order. It had taken months to fill out the forms, gather the documents, secure the visas and permits I needed to enter legally, but looking over the bridge and seeing all the border patrols officers with their dogs staring at me and the others who were crossing I felt as if I was guilty of something.

I was coming to the United States through an agency to work taking care of a family’s young children, but by the time I had to show my visa to the border patrol officer I was sweating and scared. Why was I so scared if everything was in order? Maybe it was because of the message I had heard for so long, that I was Mexican and we are coming to steal jobs.

Once the officer let me into the country, I felt relieved, calm at last. I had made it to el otro lado del charco, the other side of the river. Now everything was going to be great, I thought. I was here to accomplish the American dream, my American-Mexican dream.

Now I wake up each morning wondering if the president is going to ban people like me from entering to the USA soon. Or maybe he’ll cancel all the student visas. And when is that construction of the wall is going to start, a wall that’s going to be exactly where I crossed the border to come to New Jersey 4 years ago?

I came here by the big door, with a visa that allowed me to travel back and forth to my beautiful Chihuahua and see my family, but after one year I had to change my status from J-1 (au pair visa) to F-1 (student visa), and this change had a huge cost for me. I am not talking about the $600 dollars that I had to pay between fees, forms and permissions, I am talking about not being able to see my family for two years. It was the toughest time of my life. At only 19 years old I now felt trapped in this country.

The feeling of being legal in a place but not able to travel to your country is indescribable. At night I would pray that nothing would happen to my family because I couldn’t travel home if something bad happened.

After two years I was so homesick that I started to look for plane tickets to get back home. Things were changing, the US presidential elections were coming up, and things didn’t look good for Mexicans if Drumpf was to win. So I took the risk and went home and reapplied for a student visa. I told myself if they denied my visa it would be destiny, a sign that America wasn’t for me.

But I got approved for my visa for four more years, came back and restarted my education. By then, however, I had to watch the daily political campaign of Donald Drumpf spewing hate towards Mexicans and saying over and over: “we are going to build a wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it!”

I remember laughing as I saw all the memes about him, and thinking this man is never going to be the US president, then ay caramba! Donald J. Drumpf is the president of the US. I couldn’t believe it. So wait, no more avocados? No more Cinco de Mayo?

My mom kept calling, “Mjia y ahora qué va pasar? Vas a poder visitarnos otra vez?” she asked.Sweetie, now what’s going to happen? Will you be able to visit us again?” Hearing my mom asking me these questions was breaking my heart but I knew now more than ever I had to be strong. I had to show my family back home, and all the people here, that being a Mexican immigrant in this country shouldn’t be a barrier to success, that all those insults from Drumpf about Mexicans are not true, that instead we are part of the culture of this country. All our hard work needs to be recognized.

Now I am a full-time student with a 3.6 GPA. I’m a cross country runner for a team that won the Regionals for the first time and went to the 2016 Nationals. I’m Editor-in-Chief of The College VOICE, an award-winning newspaper of excellence. But even so, I don’t know if my effort is enough to prove to people that what President Drumpf said is not true.

He told the world: “When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems,and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

My roles at Mercer County Community College have helped me pursue my dream and demonstrate that Mexican immigrants aren’t coming to destroy the country, sell drugs or rape people. We are here because we want a better future that for different reasons we couldn’t find in our country.

I hope one day I can be in front of a border patrol officer or any police officer and not feel that old sick fear. I hope the picture of those dogs at the border staring at me disappears. I hope to stop feeling guilty, guilty for being Mexican.

I choose to be an immigrant in the US and I will never regret my decision. I am proud and thankful for being Latina and Mexicana. I will not stop until I achieve my Mexican-American dream, or until my visa gets cancelled, even if things get harder in this country, this country that has become mi nueva casa, my new home. I will keep doing my best.

This article is the first in a two part series. To read “Russian American in the Age of Drumpf” click here

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