My name is Ericka and I Am Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic.
Since I was a kid my mother has taught me values that will help me succeed in life. In 2001, with a small bag in hand, my mother left her children, her house, and thousand of memories in Ecuador to cross the border into the United States. She was looking for a better life and for opportunities that she could not have in my country. I did not want her to leave because I would not have anyone to take care of me and my little brother. I knew since then my life would change forever.
At the age of seven I stopped living like a normal kid and began to live as a grown up. Instead of playing with dolls I started learning how to cook, how to go to the “mercado” and buy food. At the age of seven I was a mother for my 1 year old little brother. My life was full of insults and beatings by my uncle who was an alcoholic. I stood to his abuses. Abuse that was not only against me but also towards my brother.
One shocking event happened which made my mother realize that I couldn’t live with him anymore. One afternoon when I got home from school I saw my aunt sitting in the sidewalk of my house crying. When she looked at me I knew something bad had happen.
”Your brother is dead” she told me.
To be honest I started to laugh because I thought it was a joke, but unfortunately it wasn’t. I didn’t know what to do when I saw his cold little body laying lifeless on my bed. I just started to cry. It was the hardest thing I had ever experienced. After my brother’s death my mom started to do everything in order to bring me here. Yes, I crossed the border in 2005.
On my way to New York I had to cross a river and walk under the intense sun. For two entire days I had nothing to eat but I didn’t mind it, for me everything was worth it just to be with my mother again. Once I got here I thought that nothing bad could ever happen to me again because as my mom would say “we are in the big city”. I thought everyone had the same opportunities but I was wrong. I remember one day after school the police came to my house and arrested my mom accusing her of domestic violence. After being processed my mother was removed from our home and I went to live with one of my aunts. When my classmates found out about what happened most of them supported me but one girl said the reason my mom was arrested was because she was stealing “American jobs“ and because we were “wetbacks”. I knew that wasn’t the reason. My mom was just working the jobs that others didn’t want to do and yes she made a mistake but it’s not her fault. In my heart I know she is not a criminal.
All these experiences have encouraged me to keep going, to keep giving my best in all I do in order to make my family proud of me. I feel like all my efforts aren’t enough. When I started applying for colleges I remember one of my history teachers told me that I didn’t qualify for financial aid just because I don’t have a card with nine digits on it. That was when I understood the difference between my cousin and I. Both of us grew up together, we both crossed the border together but now she has a green card and I don’t. Therefore my chances to be the professional I always dreamt of are so little.
While I was searching for an organization to intern at I found the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC). They basically create different events in support of the Dream Act while developing leaders and helping youth like me have equal access to education. Now I am an intern at the NYSYLC and I am really glad to be here sharing my story with other students that have the same dreams as I do. I am not going to give up. I will fight until my last breath because I know we can win this fight. Hope is the last thing we lose. La esperanza es lo ultimo que se pierde!