People who were born in the United States never have to think of the day they became American. They were born with that privilege, at least for now. It took me 20 years, countless sacrifices, and thousands of dollars to become a citizen of the United States, yet there are still those who believe I should be in jail or deported back to my country. There are those that call me a liar, that see me as "the personification of someone who has personally wronged them," or taken something away from them.
My country of birth is Mexico. I lived there until I was 11. Mexico will always be part of my very being. However, when people say I should be deported back to my country, I think, “America is my country. It has been since I was 11 years old”.
Over the past five months, since my life story was detailed in Bloomberg Businessweek and by other media outlets, I have come across some of the most hateful words that have ever been directed toward me. I went from selling funnel cakes on the streets of San Antonio to selling derivatives at Goldman Sachs, something that is possible only in America, something that is the very definition of the American Dream.
I broke the law by overstaying my visa and using fake documents to obtain my job at Goldman Sachs. These breaches did not come without consequences. I paid the price for every single one of my decisions. I went through a long process, paid fees, hired lawyers to represent my case, so that I could adjust my status after marrying a U.S. citizen. It took me five years to go through the legal process of adjusting my immigration status.
When I was still undocumented and heard the insults often used to discriminate against immigrants, I kept quiet. I was afraid to speak out. I have a U.S. passport now, and a voice, and would like to address some of the most inaccurate comments I have read over the past year.
1. I stole the job of a U.S. citizen, a very high paying job. 17,000 people apply for jobs at Goldman Sachs every year. The odds of getting a job there are slimmer than those of getting into Harvard. Goldman Sachs had their pick of job applicants and I still got hired. I graduated from a top business school with honors. I was president of one of largest student groups on campus. I had previous (unpaid) internships. I interview well and remember people’s names. I earned that job. If I took it from a U.S. citizen, maybe they needed to step up their game.
2. I should be in jail or deported back to my country. I am a U.S. citizen. The United States is my country. I lived in places like Texas and New York, where it is not a felony to use fake documents. If I should be in jail for using false identification, so should every college student that uses a fake I.D. to get into clubs and drink beer. I repeat, the United States is my country. I became a citizen on August 8th, 2014. Elle.com took some really nice pictures of my big day. Others were not so fortunate, the Obama administration has deported over 2 million people, tearing families apart.
3. My story is just propaganda because I don’t fit the “poor, rapist, criminal” narrative. Perhaps my story is not the story of every undocumented immigrant, but neither is the story so often seen in the media. While Wall Street may not be the stereotypical life associated with immigrants, there are 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S of diverse ages, socioeconomic levels and occupations.
4. I stole financial aid to go to college. Undocumented students have little to no access to financial aid. I could not even fill out the FASFA because I did not have a Social Security number when I started college. I sold funnel cakes 80 miles from my college campus, obtained the Texas Women scholarship (which did not ask for a Social Security number), and a wonderful woman co-signed a loan for me. That’s how I paid for my education. Undocumented students have access to in-state tuition and state financial aid only in six states.
5. I broke the law, period. There is a big difference between the law and justice. In 1967, it was illegal for a white person to marry a person of color. There was a time when it was illegal for women to vote. Laws must evolve as society evolves. Our immigration laws have not been updated since I was three years old. The immigration system is broken and it needs to be fixed.
6. I didn’t make myself legal soon enough. 12 million undocumented immigrants don’t live in the shadows by choice; there is no way for them to adjust their status under the current immigration system. There was no way for me to become legalized prior to marrying a U.S. citizen. There are undocumented immigrants who, even if they marry a U.S. citizen and have U.S. citizen children, cannot adjust their immigration status if they crossed the border illegally. I came to the U.S. with a tourist visa, which made all the difference in adjusting my status.
7. I assimilated. Why can’t all “illegals” do the same? In 1910, 22% of white immigrants 21 and older could not speak English. It takes time and several generations to assimilate. I learned to speak English because my parents had the resources to send me to summer school and hire a private tutor. Not everyone has those same resources.
It’s not only people who hide behind an anonymous online identity that make uneducated, hateful remarks. It’s also people in the media and in the public eye who perpetuate myths about immigrants. In some ways, becoming a U.S. citizen has empowered me to speak out, to feel safe, to feel a part of the country I love. In other ways, it doesn’t matter that I am now a citizen of the United States, many still label me an “illegal,” who should have never become a U.S citizen. To those people I say, I am an American, the United States is my country, and I get to influence what my country looks like and what it stands for.