You’ve heard about DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That’s the program that gave protected status to half a million young immigrants who came here illegally as children. My passenger Miguel is one of them.
“You belong to two worlds. When I am out and about I feel I have to be extra American than anybody else just to fit in and then when I’m at home if I say an English word my mom would flip out on me, like: ‘Oh, can I have some tortillas? No, it’s tortillas.’
He was seven when he was brought to the States. Later his sister was born here which makes her a citizen. Now, I also met Yudidt. Yudidt, as well as her twin sister, are American citizens: “I turned eighteen this year, February fourth. Me and my twin were so happy, we were like: “We gonna be able to vote and we’ll be able to buy a shotgun maybe, if we have money. We gonna be able to buy goldfish.” Yet she has a brother who’s not. He was brought from Mexico when he was a toddler.
Miguel and Yudidt don’t know each other. They’ve never met and I’ve driven them at different times. But their lives have many similar parallels, or so I thought. The mic goes to Miguel first.
“I was bout six or seven years old when we first arrived in the United States. I remember my mom telling me, pack your bags, we’re leaving. So I just grabbed my little backpack, my toys that I had, few cloths that my mom packed for me and we just got on a bus. I remember it was raining that day and I remember my mom saying: ‘The soldiers are gonna get on the bus. Don’t say anything, let me do all the talking.’ Looking back it was immigration getting on the bus, looking at everybody, everybody just looking straight and then giving them the paperwork. That just happened and we just crossed the border and we came to the United States. Are we ever going back, or? My mom was just: ‘No we’re not going back. We’re not going back.’ We’ve never went back since.
“The decision was pretty much were I grew up you were limited on options. Either I continued to be a farmer, also the secondary option was me becoming a drug lord which is a big no-no. So my mom was pretty much: ‘I don’t want this for you. I want you to do better, you can do better, and we will do better.
“When I was I’d say in my sophomore or freshman the possibility of me getting a Dream Act came up, which is I would pretty much get a social security, I’d be allowed to work, and I’d be allowed to go further my education. Pretty much I was almost a resident without being a resident. I do have to pay a full tuition because the government does not help me out at all. It’s really hard for me to get scholarships. I work and I study, which is already a handful but I’m also trying to do this internship.
“At this moment I have no idea where I stand at a citizenship process. I want to say I am close to it but every time I say it it takes like two more years and nothing happens. I see my sister, she has so many opportunities. Way more than I have right now even with the Dream Act. I came here legally, I have no father, I have just my mother, I am working, I am studying. So I have a lot of things on me and I’m still able to make it work. So the way I see it, I tell my sister, I tell my little cousins: ‘If I can do it you guys have no choice, you guys have no excuses. You can always better yourself, no matter what situation you’re in. Which is what my mom always tells me. She’d be like: ‘Did you get any sleep last night?’ I’d be like: ‘Two-three hours’ and she’d be like: ‘It will be worth it one day, don’t worry.”
“My name is Yudidt Sanchez. My mom and dad immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when my brother was around three years old. Then five years later my mom had me and my sister Abbie and then five years later my mom had my little sister, so there’s four of us. My dad is from Otomi people. My mom is also indigenous from Mazahua people. I know a little bit of Otomi, some words…
“Growing up I remember my brother, my brother I never saw him doing homework or anything, like he didn’t really care about education. Both of my parents didn’t finish elementary school so my dad, when he was trying to go to Mexico City to work, to be a construction worker he couldn’t because he didn’t know how to read. So you had to actually go back to his village and go to an adult school. I think that really impacts me because I am so blessed to know how to read and write and blessed to be in a community college. When there were going on news, rumors, you know, DACA, and this card. My parents were like: ‘Come-come-come! Let’s hear the news about this.’
“I remember when my dad was like: ‘This is a huge moment. All I’ve wanted is for your brother to get an education like you guys, without having to pay the out of state tuition, which is a lot. It’s fine that I don’t have legal status myself.’ I remember it coming in the mail and I remember my brother opening it and we’re all excited and it wasn’t scary that much.
“Now my brother is doing classes through Mesa Community College. It’s online because he wants to be a web designer. He loves it, he’s always showing me his projects and he’s getting all A’s too. Now that I’m older I realize that my brother didn’t care about the school because he told me: I didn’t have the opportunity, so why would I care?
“I was in early college program and I saw my brother walking into the class. I told my dad: ‘Dad, guess what? I saw my brother at MCC!’ He was like: ‘I’d drive pass that school, I’d look at all those community colleges and would be like, oh my gosh, my kids re gonna be there one day. They gonna see each other.’ My dad started crying, he was like: ‘I dreamed of you guys seeing each other at school and saying ‘hi’ to each other because I’d never picture that to happen.”
listen to Open Conversation episodes also every Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.
recorded, produced by Regina Revazova
note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the podcast to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.