(This is Part 2 of Shandel’s immigration story, you can see part 1 here. Shandel is a dreamer and community organizer in Oakland. We begin after her family has crossed the border with her mother.)
Our journey from Mexico to the U.S. was long and scary but we made it. Life in the U.S hasn’t been easy. In the beginning, not knowing the language, going to a new school, having to make new friends. We missed our home and family tremendously. Everything that one feels during those days, weeks and months becomes part of a certain numbness that one must ignore. So, we learned how to move on.
After one year living in San Jose, we moved to Oakland California, mi casa till this day. Here I went to Elementary, Middle and graduated from Skyline High School. I was not able to continue my education after graduating because of my legal status in this country and my parents’ financial status. Going to college was a dream of mine that, over time, that dream was put aside until it numbed itself in the everyday routine we call hard work and life.
I started working at the age of 16. I’ve experience discrimination, harassment and was threatened by employers due to my legal status in this country. I learned to stay quiet to injustice in order to survive.
I’ve carried a big load of frustration, pain, and fear. For many years I walked through life with a big label above my head that said “you are worthless.” I often felt stuck: I wanted to do more with my life but I hit so many bumps along the way that I eventually I gave up.
Fast forward a couple of years. I became a mother and got married. Then, DACA was introduced and approved.
DACA gave life to many young immigrants, including me. The process of applying was scary, but when I finally received my work permit I was able to obtain my Driver’s License and my ID. That was the day I was given an identity: Shandel finally came out of the shadows. I was able to go to college. I have savored everything that has come my way ever since. DACA gave me a voice and gave me power.
I am part of a community that knows Shandel and has seen me grow as an individual. I look back to my journey and there’s nothing I would change. I am who I am today because of all I have been through. I work hard and I am passionate about what I do. I was given a chance to dream many dreams….
But there is one dream I have not been able to realize and that is to breathe the air, and taste the food and walk on the streets of Mexico City again. To see my family there. The only way I have been able to see the streets of my old neighborhood in Mexico is through Google Earth.
That’s how I connect to the part of me that died when I crossed the border so many years ago. I get sad that after 24+ years in this country, I haven’t been able to visit my heartland. I will continue to dream. I will continue to speak and to grow.
This is my story (Mi historia) , and it doesn’t end here. I hope that this story will be told by my children and generations to come.
My name is Shandel, I have three beautiful children. I am married to a wonderful man. I live in Oakland. I am a Community Organizer and I am a proud Mexican Immigrant Woman. This is my story, this is my identity.
Special Note: Gracias (Thanks you) a Dirk and Sophia, gracias a mi familia (familia), amigos (friends) y comunidad (and community).