What Are You Most Proud Of?

Felipe's family at the Statue of Liberty. Courtesy Felipe Diosdado
Felipe's family at the Statue of Liberty. Courtesy Felipe Diosdado

My sons, Issac and Felipe are my pride and joy. My wife and I go to church with them every Sunday, and we spend our free time at the movies or enjoying a walk through downtown Chicago. We also take road trips, one of which brought us to New York City where we visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

I brought them there because I wanted them to see the most important American monument in person. The Statue of Liberty is the icon of freedom and a historic welcoming signal to immigrants.

Chicago is my home. It's been that way for the past 17 years. I'm a maintenance worker at a residential building and a member of SEIU Local 1. I'm kind of living the American dream. I say "kind-of" because my undocumented status has prevented me from pursuing better job opportunities. I had the chance to become an assistant engineer at my building but declined the offer because I'm scared of losing the job if my bosses discover that I'm undocumented.

When I was young, I saw America as a country of opportunity, composed of good people who help each other. I was 18 when I came from Morelia, Mexico in 1997. I'm the eldest of my siblings, and my parents needed me to provide support to help raise my brothers. Conditions in Mexico were terrible. My family did not have enough money to survive on their own — definitely not enough to bring food to the table.

My family arranged for me to be brought to America through a coyote (a smuggler). By working in America, I was able to raise money to support my parents and siblings.

Recently, I tried to apply for a Temporary Visitors Driver's License, which I am eligible for as a resident of Illinois. Because of an error at the Secretary of State Office, I was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement , and I've been in removal proceedings since May. SEIU Local 1 and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White have written to ICE to advocate for a stay of deportation and deferred action.

I am a hard working family man. I pay taxes. I support my local community and do everything in my power to provide for my wife and children. Aren't immigrants like me important to America? If only I could do the things those who are citizens sometimes take for granted, vote and drive with a license, I would be able to live out of the shadows.

Some core American values are honesty, the willingness to work hard, and belief in God. Americans always give to the community and work hard for what we want and what we have.

My sons, Issac and Felipe are part of the roughly 4.5 million native-born U.S. citizen children who have at least one undocumented parent. In fact, almost 90 percent of Illinois children with immigrant parents are U.S. citizens.

If I am sent back to Mexico — a land I no longer know anything about, who will be there to support my family?

I am one of the 11 million undocumented Americans in this country.

In joining the #1of11Million campaign, I ask our country's leaders: What do you want to do with us?

Felipe Diosdado lives in Chicago and is father to two U.S. citizen children.

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