My name is Ricardo, I’m 18 years old and I came from Guerrero, Mexico. I was only nine months old when my mom crossed the border. I was raised in a small city in Middletown, New York and up to this day, I still live here.
When I was about 12 years old my mother told me that we were going back to Mexico. I didn’t want to go back and leave everything I knew: my friends, school, the city I was raised in but even after I protested, my mother decided to leave. Was I ever going to come back? I didn’t know the answer.
We left a little after and when we first arrived everything in Mexico was upside down. Everything was different and for a while I hated it. I never understood how she would leave the United States to come into something worse. Sometimes we ate, sometimes we didn’t and sometimes the only thing we could afford to eat was a tortilla with a little salt. I never complained to my mother because I knew it was hard for her too.
One day as I was walking to the store I saw a man running in the street and wondered why. Next, I saw a truck pull over, two men come out and they shot him in the head. No one came to save him, no police, ambulance or anyone else to help. How come no one came to help this guy? Was everyone scared that if they said something they would be killed next? Or is it that no one cared about anyone else besides their own safety? I was frozen there for about half an hour until my mother came to look for me because she heard someone get shot. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Everything is so vivid, and it’s one of the worst experiences ever.
After the murder my mother realized that the United States was a much better option for all of us. My mother then called one of my uncles in the United States; he agreed with my mom’s decision and said he would wait until we arrived in the United States. We took a bus from where we lived all the way to the border. We walked for five minutes then a guy, who smuggles people into the United States, called a coyote, came to us and told us that he was the most reliable, cheapest and that he’ll have us across the border in just a day. My mom was desperate and agreed.
The next day we came back and the Coyote took us to his house. There he explained to us some of the rules. We had to pay $3,000 each, and even though that didn’t seem cheap at all, we had no choice. Then we got inside a truck and hid in the back of the truck with ten other people. I could hardly breathe with all the things piled on top of me. I felt like I was suffocating and the Coyote told us not to peek at all because it was too dangerous. Out of nowhere the truck stopped, and we had to get out. Each one of us took a gallon of water. Next thing I knew, we were running through a forest and we hid a lot as well. That same day the Coyote received a call. He argued with somebody. After he hung up and he told us it was going to take more than a day due to some problems.
The Coyote was a drug addict. He smoked cocaine and would often scream at us. Day one passed and our gallon container of water was empty. Day two, three, four passed and at this point we drank water from lakes, the water was dirty so we starting using our shirts as filters. We ate grape-like fruits found in the desert and that was all, dirty water and grapes kept us alive. We had nothing left to eat. The Coyote stole food from a ranch for his girlfriend and himself but both of them ate it all. I remember that suddenly, it started raining extremely hard. It was freezing cold, and my mom was crying of pain because she was three months pregnant. So I decided to give her my shirt. Even though I was freezing, I knew I had to do everything to keep my mom safe and warm. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her.
We would sleep for fifteen minutes at a time and then we would continue walking. “Estamos aqui” I heard someone say, “we are finally here”. What was supposed to be a one day journey turned out to be almost two weeks! By the time we got to the United States, for the second time, my mom had lost the baby. The loss was devastating and I felt helpless. My mom was exhausted and so I carried her the rest of the way, about two hours. We had finally made it. We started with thirty people and only five of us made it.
Helen Keller once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do”. I might just one person but I know that if I share my story many will hear it and eventually create change, a difference. Many will want to support and help undocumented students be able to attend college and touch many hearts.
I believe that being able to go to college is important because everyone deserves the right to be able to get an education. It’s an opportunity for undocumented students to succeed in life. Access to education inspires undocumented youth and lets them know that there is a college waiting for them after graduation and dropping out will no longer be a good choice. We are supposed to live in a free country; a nation under God.
How can we all be equal if we, the undocumented people, aren’t treated right? We are not viewed equal by many. “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us” said St. Augustine. I believe that God sees us all the same as his children, with no differences or preferences and with all his love. No matter the race, background, or legal status. So why do some humans, children of God, treat us with such dishonor, inequality and disrespect like if we are some kind of alien species that just came to invade this country? Why?!
To all the candidates, senators, teachers, neighbors, mothers and fathers, to you, to everybody who wants people to come to this country legally, just know that it’s not our fault, we are only kids and this wasn’t our decision. Our parents brought us here for a better life, a better education and to pursue the American Dream, because, like my mom, they knew that it would be much safer here in the United States than in other countries, like Mexico, where people are murdered all the time, and in front of others, but no one seems cares.