My name is Cristian Z. I am 23 years old and undocumented. I was brought here by my parents when I was 3 years of age so I personally don’t remember how I actually got here. The innocence as a child for most is something that we just grow out of and leave behind at a certain point in our lives like a cocoon. Yet for me as an undocumented student it’s something that I wish I could go back to; a worry free life. My roots are here in the States as an American. And just like a tree when it gets cuts down or ripped out by force, that tree served a purpose, it contributed to its surroundings and the hole or stump it leaves behind is a reminder of something important that was there. There are many stories of undocumented people that have been resonating through out the years and I would love to contribute my echo.
The funny thing about being undocumented was that I actually didn’t think I was until high school. In school I did extremely well in the majority in my classes and ironically one of the classes I actually struggled in was Spanish class! Around tenth grade I started my plan to go to a university and so I was preparing ahead of time, asking my teachers for letters of recommendation, booking the essential classes, and prepping for the SAT. I had many paths I wanted to take such as a math teacher or engineer. Around the start of senior year many of my friends were getting their licenses and driving their dates to the local mall to catch the flavor of the month flick. During that time I started to date this beautiful young girl named Tatyana (who would later become my supportive, loving, caring wife) and wanted to do the same things for her. So I started to talk to my parents about driving and going out and they would tell me sure soon don’t worry it will come in its own time. After a while I got sick and tired of them putting me off so I asked what in the world do I have to wait for?
Mijo tu no tienes papeles, eres inmigrante. I remember when both my parents started to paint my situation to me both of them tried to explain it as nice as they could, even though they knew it was hurting me and I was hurting them with my disappointment, I was totally crushed. I have to be clear though on something first to myself. It wasn’t like my parents had not told me before so it didn’t play out like a movie scene where the main character doesn’t see it coming. I guess for me I didn’t understand what it meant to be a nine digit number. As an American I knew that there was opportunity here, many a times my history books taught me that this country had promise for anyone willing to put effort into bettering one self. For the rest of the year in school it was part rebellion and part confusion. I still did well but not excellent in school and I did stop dreaming big. It didn’t hit me all at once living undocumented; it came in bitter parts here and there.
Days before graduation I started looking into vocational schools and anything that provided a decent income. I knew I possessed great problem solving skills and was able to repair anything that seemed a challenge to fix. Through one of my counselors I found out that I could go to my local community college and under AB 540 I could pay in-state tuition. Yet he did seem confused and couldn’t understand why I was going to the trouble of studying so hard to service ice machines instead of engineering them. I just didn’t want to hear it and continued to plan out what I believed at the time I could only do; labor. Before the completion of my certificate I was offered a job from a local company but being undocumented I really couldn’t take it, yet I still wanted to be able to apply what I learned to the field and asked them that I would have rather have them give me work experience through the college in exchange for credits so that I may be able to finish faster. They didn’t know why I wanted credits instead of checks but they were not going to lose sleep over it.
Those two summer months ignited both my body and my mind. My body physically because being outside in ninety plus degree heat at the end of eight to twelve hour shifts burnt me out; my skin dry and dark as a log of wood. Being taken advantage of nevertheless did lead me to a realization that even thought my body was exhausted and beat, my mind was thirsty again for knowledge. I decided I was going to pursue what I should have done in the first place, engineering. It’s been a slow process since I am not allowed yet to receive financial aid and I must muster money thru side jobs that I do (which I do pay taxes on thru an ITIN number), however I am looking forward this year to the passing of the D.R.E.A.M Act which would allow over-achieving undocumented students gain conditional legal status.
I know with the support of my lovely wife, family, and Dreamers just like me my journey will not fall back to the same hard trail but move forward towards greener open meadows. As of right now I am only a voice to you for fear of deportation to a place where I haven’t the slightest clue what it is and what it has in store for me but hopefully soon I can have face too. Understand that dreams don’t just die on their own they are killed through lies, insults, suppression, and injustice so it has become a daily fight to keep them alive sometimes. So I thank you for taking the time to read my story and I hope that I might have planted the seed now so later a tree might flourish.