I’m Not Mexican, But I’m Illegal

July 1, 2016

Was illegal. Wait. Can I still be considered an illegal if I am no longer “illegal?” I guess you can say I am an ex-illegal but in today’s society, that means something. I never really paid attention to the term “illegals,” a term  used for immigrants who choose to stay in the United States without documents, until Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump gave a speech regarding undocumented Mexican immigrant workers:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”

I live in Miami, Florida; a sea-port city that is referred to as the “Capital of Latin America.” Seriously. We have a cornucopia of Latinos as well as people from throughout the Caribbean. Mexican jokes aren’t a thing here. At least, I don’t think they are a thing here. Nevertheless, after Trumps words, I began to notice a disdain for Mexicans over the Internet. Why was Tila Tequila holding a gun and saying she was going to hunt illegals? The talks of building a wall, the videos that berated Latinos for speaking Spanish, the support for deporting families, and the questioning of the Fourteenth Amendment Right for children who are born to undocumented, immigrant parents got me worried.

My mother and I were in the kitchen when I told her that Donald Trump reminded me of Hugo Chavez. As a Venezuelan, Hugo Chavez (and now Nicolas Maduro) is equal to Satan. You can’t get more ignorant than that asshole. He and his followers ruined Venezuela. Now, Venezuelan’s are leaving by the masses. My mom made a quick reply. I can’t remember what she said exactly but she suggested that if Donald Trump became President, we’d get deported. Why? Because at one point, we were illegal immigrants.

“WHAT!” I freaked out. I had no idea of my parent’s struggle to stay in the United States. Consider me a shitty daughter, but what do you know about your parent’s lives?

Let’s go back!

My father is the only child out of his six siblings to be born in Cuba —  Havana, Cuba to be exact. He and my grandparents fled to Venezuela during the Cuban Revolution and built a life in Maracaibo.


We still have the jacket my father wore when he entered Venezuela

My father lived next door to my mother, who he eventually married and had their first child, a boy. Sometime later, grandparents decided to move to Miami, Florida and gain U.S. Citizenship under the Cuban Adjustment Act. As a Cuban, if you arrive in the United States and live one year with no problems (plus some other criteria), you are eligible to apply for a permanent residence. My grandparents moved to Miami on a travel visa, overstayed the visa, and after a year, applied for permanent residency. After they acquired U.S. Citizenship, they were able to request my father’s six siblings. My father, the oldest and already an adult, was not illegible. He made a similar journey with my mother and brother. My father told me, “I disappeared for a year.”

My mother’s situation was a bit different. As a Venezuelan, the Cuban Adjustment Act did not apply to her. Therefore, she returned to Venezuela every few months in order to renew her tourist visa. When she became pregnant with me, she made arrangements to fly back to Venezuela and deliver me because she could not afford the hospital cost in the United States without health insurance. When I returned to the United States, I became an undocumented immigrant. I was illegal. After a year, my father applied for permanent residency. By default, my mother, brother, and I also received our green cards. I have to admit, my green card was the cutest.

Gabie's Green Card

How could they deny those giant eyes?

After years, my parents finally received their U.S. Citizenship. My mother actually got hers first! My father couldn’t believe it! He did all the paperwork and because of him they were able to acquire citizenship, but she took the Oath of Allegiance first. Again, by default, my brother and I became U.S. Citizens. My parents worked hard, but we weren’t privileged. My father worked multiple, low-wage jobs, my mother had to sell ropita (cute clothes) to pay for my birth, and they experienced countless obstacles as immigrants starting over in a new country. Their goal was to provide a better life for their children. My brother is a police officer and I work in higher education. Not bad for a couple of ex-illegals, huh?

I am forever grateful to my parents for their struggle to create their own American Dream. So when Mexico (or Cuba, Venezuela, etc.) sends their people, they are sending people like me and my parents. They are sending people who want a better life. They are sending honest, hard working people. People, who may one day protect the community or assist them in college.

Next time you say you want illegals out of the country, consider my family.

Until next time! 🐰💭

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  • Reply Lilly February 5, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Dearest Gaby,
    I just read your family immigration story, it was touching and i could not help but love you more because it lets me know you better.
    My family also came as immigrants…we were welcomed because of communism Castro and the missel crisis. My father fought and was captured during the Bay of Pigs fiasco, which left alot of issues, pain and a very ruptured family dynamic too long to explain here. It was a very traumatic time for me and all who came. Just like your family and many others from all over the world, with hardship and prejudice we made our way thru American life to what it is today.
    I want to asure you that Chavez, Castro nor any corrupt theocrat would have sent hard working families to this country, most escaped. You may have read the history of Mariel boat lift, there you find who was sent, how and why and how it changes Miami in the 80’s.
    You’re kind, intelligent perspective is not tainted to be predudice against anyone who looks, speaks, prays diffrent, I think it draws you to want to get to know them better. Unfoutunately there is alot of ignorance and jumping onto bandwagons and conclusions.
    I understand the presidents position as an American. All other countries make it difficult for people to come in and to be accepted into citizenship … America needs to also be careful for its citizens, current or future. Everyone wants to stay here including those that said they would leave if Trump became president.
    God is in control…Thankfully. Lets pray for our leaders and our citizens to be kind and curious towards one another regardless of our diffrences.

    • Reply Gabriela February 9, 2018 at 9:29 am

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experience! Immigration is constantly in the forefront of my mind as I think of my cousins, who are younger than me, that have had to leave Venezuela for better lives. Thankfully, they have been successful in securing jobs and residency/citizenship, but it hasn’t been without struggles and prejudice. Constantly praying for better circumstances!

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