To become an undocumented immigrant requires very little but is a result of tremendous social, economic, political, and environmental forces; I offer my story as example.
My family has been farmers for millennia -- ever since first setting foot on this continent. We settled in a small village (San Miguel Ahuehuetitlan) located in the rugged southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, where the Sierra Madre Sur and Sierra Madre Oaxaca -- the unconnected southern spine of the Rocky Mountains -- unite. The people of the region, until recently, spoke mainly mixteco, the native dialect. They had few roads, scarce potable water, and houses with dirt floors. The Catholic church at the center of town and the villagers' last names -- for only those that fled to higher uplands were able to keep their native family names -- are vestiges of Spanish colonization. My ancestors remained in that village through the fall of the Spanish empire and Mexico's first hundred years as a sovereign nation.
I was born on a cold January day, on the dirt floor of my grandmother's house, where only nana was present to aid my mother in the delivery. Lacking any soap with which to wash me, my mother laid me on her to avoid the ants which would've been attracted to our blood. My parents would leave for America two-years later, leaving me and my older sister of 4- years behind to be under the care of our maternal grandparents. A year of separation proved too much, and eventually my parents thought it best to have their family here in America with some hope of an education and decent living, rather than in Mexico where life was increasingly grim. In an act of daring faith and unrequited love, they decided to leave behind their parents, culture, language, memories, and childhood for their future family.
My story is not unique. In fact, 2 million narratives share the same plot under similar circumstances. Stories of economic displacement, political asylum, and spiritual refuge are particular to the souls trapped in similar predicaments. This youngest generation of sojourners have begun, and continue, to organize around the DREAM Act -- a proposal that would provide temporary legal residence to undocumented youth who came to this nation as minors, have resided in America for five continuous years, possess good moral character with no criminal record, and have graduated from high school or the equivalent. Having met these initial requirements, recipients would have 10-years of conditional legal status to complete two years of military service or college to earn permanent legal residence.
Nearly a decade has passed since the bill was initially proposed. Since then, there has not been much success. However, this Advent season, we might be able to welcome that foreign, hungry, and poor version of myself that crossed the Sonoran Desert with nothing but ganas, dreams and humility. And in so doing, we can honor the faithful tradition of welcoming the stranger -- seeing the image of God in them and ourselves -- and thereby entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2).
This anonymous guest contributor is a DREAMer. He serves as a peer minister and enjoys prayer, poetry, and painting.