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Not the Villains in This Narrative

Yelena Bivian

Para mi Ama y Apa, (For my mom and dad,)

As a little girl, I was introduced to the ocean. I was sure, at that age, that the ocean didn’t like me as it kept knocking me down. My mom and dad were always there, encouraging me and even holding me when I was scared. As long as I can remember, my parents prioritized my well being above their own. Their struggles and sacrifices, most of which were kept from me highlight their desire to only want the best for me.

An idea that was about to be faced with critique.

This September, as the new school year was beginning for many students; mainly those undocumented, faced a new challenge. Donald Trump was putting an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or most commonly known as DACA. All over the country DREAMer and allies protested Trump’s decision trying to appeal to the humanity of legislators. Allies and political leaders made it clear that DREAMers were not alone.

The amount of support and attention that DREAMer were getting was simply amazing. People were finally getting it. DREAMers were finally getting the recognition and support they had been fighting for, for so long. However, as supporters began defending DACA recipients a new narrative began to form. The villains in this narrative: the parents of DREAMers.

“They were just children they didn’t have a choice. Their parents brought them here”

“The parents made the choice for them.”

“It was the parents who should have known better.”

They, the parents, were being cast in such a negative light, being turned into the scapegoat for this sticky situation. I was in shock. How was it possible that these parents were turned into monsters for making the ultimate decision? Many sacrificed family, careers, and comfort to ensure a better lifestyle for their family. I began to think not only about family members and friends who were DACA recipients but also about my parents.

I am privileged and fortunate enough to be a US citizen. My life has been much different compared to my peers who are DACA students. However, my parents were at one point undocumented. My dad at 16 made the decision to come to the United States to work to provide for his family. Both of my parents sacrificed their families and the comfort of their home to come to an alien country.

As social media and news sources continued to victimize DACA students and criminalize their parents, I began to think about my parent’s choice in coming here.

What if they had waited for a couple more years?

What if I had been born in Mexico?

What if I was in the position that thousands of DACA students are in now?

What if it were my parents were being targeted as the villains?

What if..?

All these questions fill my brain as I continue to observe the support of DACA students. I look back at the sacrifices my parents have made for me. My mom spending hours trying to help me learn how to read despite not knowing English. My dad waking up before the crack of dawn to go to work. Both of my parents staying up when I got sick or when my chest pains were too much for me to handle. I am lucky enough to have both my parents. I am fortunate enough that I have not had to struggle in the same way DACA recipients have had to.

Nonetheless, my parents at one point were undocumented. I know the fear, the worry, and the uncertainty that comes with being undocumented. But despite that, my parents like many of the parents of DACA students made the ultimate sacrifice for us. So that we could have a much better life than they did. Like my dad says, “ Yo trabajo duro para que tus manos no estén ásperas como las mías. Para que tu espalda no te duela como le duele a tu mama.” (I work hard so that your hands won’t be rough as mine. So that your back doesn’t hurt just like your mom’s back hurts)

I do not claim to know what DACA students or parents feel. I do not claim to know the struggle or the fear that this community has. What I do know is that I don’t agree with the narrative being told about the parents of DREAMers. From personal experience, not just of my own parents but of other individuals I have had the opportunity to interact with. I can confidently say that there was no malicious intent.

Vinieron al Norte para una mejor vida. Para un mejor futuro.

They came here for a better life. For a better future.

They knew opportunities for their children could be found here. Opportunities that are not accessible in their home countries. We can only imagine the courage and overwhelming desire to make something more of their situation to pack up and leave the only place they have called home.

Thank you. Gracias.

I thank not only my parents for the sacrifices they have made for me but I also thank the parents of undocumented youth. I know that a thank you does not begin to cover how grateful myself and others feel but you should be aware that to us: you are NOT villains.

To us, you are our motivation to succeed in life. To us, you are the reason why we protest and demand equal rights. Many of us were raised in the shadows but thanks to you our voices have been strengthened and we will not be quiet.

I am happy to report that since this article was written DREAMers have taken it upon themselves to change the narrative of their parents. I applaud their efforts to unite the undocumented community.

Let us not forget the struggles our parents have done for us! Let’s change the narrative!

Author: Yelena Bivian

Yelena, most commonly known as Yeli is a proud first-generation Mexican-American student currently enrolled at the University of Redlands as a junior. Her bilingual upbringing motivated her to pursue a double major in English Literature and Spanish as well as a minor in Philosophy. Influenced by her community, Yelena aspires to go into publishing and pursue writing.

When she isn’t drowning in essays or partaking in philosophical debates, she enjoys reading, listening to music too loud for her ears, running and working out.

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