Beatriz and Olivia’s story is not an uncommon one. Millions of immigrants and their children attempt to escape poverty in their home country by migrating to America for a better life. But in the process of attempting to gain a better life, they begin to live in fear due to their legal status much like Beatriz. The media portrays immigrants as people who come into America to “steal” jobs and cause havoc by committing crimes, which is not the case. Many immigrants like my mother pay taxes every year and do not get benefits from it, follow the law, and work low end jobs such as housekeeping, construction, and nannying to make ends meet.
My mother has made many sacrifices so that my life ends up being different from hers. When she first came to America from Brazil, she was a 25 year old newlywed with a 9 month old daughter. When I was learning how to talk, she was learning how to speak English. Watching Barney helped the both of us learn our ABCs in English and how to say simple words such as thank you and goodbye. Making doctor appointments for me was anxiety inducing for her since she barely spoke and understood English. I had a lot of health issues as a child so for my mother it would be hard to understand what was even going on with my body. Once I got older I became a translator for my mother whenever I could. Luckily many local high schools at the time would offer cheap English class for adults at night. So my mother would work as a housekeeper in the morning till late and would go to class afterwards. As she would help me with my math homework, I would help her with her English homework.
Things got trickier for me when it came to schooling once I got older. I remember being a sophomore in high school preparing for the SATs and going to my mother with my college choices. Her face was doleful as she explained there was a high chance that I would not go to college because we were “illegal”. Even if I got accepted to the school of my dreams I would never be able to afford it and financial aid would not be available for me. My chances of being the first person in my family to go to college were diminished and I started to prepare myself for a life of cleaning houses just like my mother. My life changed once my father got married to an American citizen. While it was unfortunate being a child of divorce, the upside was that this would grant me a path to my citizenship and give me a chance to receive a college education.
Because of my mother, I got to go to college and graduate with a degree in film and psychology with no loans (commuting to school actually paid off). Because of her I was able to have the privilege to study abroad in London for three months. My mother supported me through all my ups and downs and never complained, even though it has been 23 years since my mother has seen her mother, brothers, and sisters. But do not fret Castaways, I am currently in the process of giving her a green card, hopefully it will be a speedy one. It just goes to show you that not all immigrants are as scary as they are often portrayed, they are people just like you who just want a better life for themselves and their families.