With our hearts pounding, my five siblings and I moved through the darkness of the desert and into the U.S. to be reunited with our parents. Helicopters flashed their lights above, seemingly sensing our despair, as we suddenly heard dogs and footsteps moving atop the thirsty desert earth. Quickly, my older brother protectively pulled me into the darkness of the brush and told me to stay calm. What appeared to be border patrol agents passed us and we continued into a country where my parents, after six months of unwilling separation, waited for us.
Sunshine Ct. served as home during my formative years in Long Beach, California. Despite this wide alleyâ€™s warm name, it coldly ridiculed those who resided within and foreshadowed the future of most residents. A dead-end street filled with poverty, gangs, crime, drugs and despair encapsulated Sunshine Ct.â€™s essence and that of the surrounding neighborhoods. As an undocumented immigrant family, my parents, drained by the long work hours, strove to give me and my siblings some guidance and support within this societal quicksand.
Within this context, I entered a stage of self-hatred and ignorance fueled by the realization of my undocumented immigrant status and homosexuality, which added to the barriers presented by my familyâ€™s low socio-economic status and educational attainment. It seemed unfair that as a child I felt inferior to my peers because I could not afford school supplies, had to shop in second-hand stores, and was chastised by teachers for my poor language abilities. And, among many other experiences, it seemed unjust that after-school I would have to help my father search for cans in dumpsters so we could have extra money to cover the rent for the familyâ€™s one bedroom apartment.
Despite numerous barriers and few resources, I managed to shatter many limitations with the help of my family, a local experimental high school and community organizations. My family and these community resources provided the necessary help to overcome hindrances and to create opportunities for myself, my family, and my community. A shattered economy pushed my family out of Mexico and into a foreign nation where, although many opportunities existed, severe socio-economic pressures in combination with our immigration status forced us into the shadows of society. These helpings hands during my formative years gave me the opportunities to realize my full potential.
Because of my background and experience, the issue of immigration has been an important topic and passion of mine. I have strived to become an expert in the field. I hope to apply my personal understanding and developed knowledge of the topic to the MPA training. Through a JD/MPA, I envision myself becoming an advocate for immigrant rights and leading a prominent organization advocating for communities of color in Los Angeles and around the country and the world.
As an immigrant to this country who has faced a number of socio-economic barriers, I understand on a personal level the importance of advocacy and community empowerment. When an environment removes all sense of hope and opportunities, community organizations and activists using legal and public policy strategies to foster change are the difference between allowing another youth or family to fall victim to flawed policies and neglected communities or to grant people the tools to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty and despair. I hope to eventually be given the opportunity to fully employ my degrees, passion and experience to fulfill what I view as my destiny: Putting an end to cycles of poverty within underserved communities of all races in a country with outstanding wealth, influence and resources that has the potential to positively change not only the lives of those within its borders but also the lives of those in need around the world.