Many Americans forget that we are all immigrants, whether it applies to you, your parents or your ancestors, we are all immigrants. We all came from somewhere else in hope of a better life. We all fled from violence, poverty and corrupt governments, whether it was from Europe in the 1700s or south of the border in present time. I was brought to Rome from Mexico at only 11 months old. My family fled, running away from extreme poverty. Making shoes out of used car tires or toy cars out of plastic Coke bottles, they grew up in a life you would not want your children growing up in.
I am beyond grateful for the life I have here in the U.S. I am more than positive that if I were to live in Mexico, my life would have taken a completely different turn. I wouldn’t have finished high school. I wouldn’t be enrolled in college and I wouldn’t own the car I have now. I am beyond grateful for these things and the opportunities I have received. Here I am, one of the 500,000 DACA recipients. Thanks to former President Barack Obama, I am able to have a well-paying job, continue my education in search of my degree and appreciate the smallest things the most.
Growing up in the South I didn’t always receive that “southern hospitality” I always heard about. I constantly hear around me how “illegal immigration” negatively affects the country. How we receive free healthcare, college tuition, food stamps and other government assistance. However, undocumented immigrants pay federal, state and local taxes. Last year, we paid about $24 billion in taxes with no benefits in return. The truth is we don’t receive the government assistance that I always hear about, since we aren’t citizens or permanent residents and so don’t qualify. As a college student, I am not even allowed to apply for FAFSA or receive the Hope Scholarship. Instead, I pay out-of-state tuition, tuition that is double the amount any other in-state student would pay, even though I grew up here. This requires me to have a full-time job to pay everything out-of-pocket. The contribution that undocumented immigrants give to this country is remarkable, even if some people refuse to accept that fact. “Just come here the right way,” they say. If only it was that easy to apply for residency in the US. It takes years and cost thousands of dollars. That’s money that the poor, looking for a better life, cannot afford. Everyone deserves a chance. Not everyone had the privilege of being born in a country filled with endless opportunities.
Undocumented immigrants are often referred to as criminals because we crossed a man-made line and are therefore referred to as “illegal.” But studies show that immigrants, especially undocumented ones, are far less likely to commit a crime than an American citizen. We’re criminalized even though studies prove otherwise. Waking up to the news that Mollie Tibbett was murdered by an undocumented immigrant was very upsetting, and to make matters worse, the right has used her murder to further push their political agenda, even as Mollie’s parents strongly object to this. It’s one of the many tactics they use to demonize immigrants. I know most people by now are screaming, “Get out of my country!,” “Come here the right way!” and “You broke the law when you crossed the border!” I hear your voices and see this every day on social media. By now I’m used to it, but I shouldn’t be. My parents and your ancestors came to the United States for a better life. They sacrificed everything they had, left their families behind and came to a new world. I have roots here now. Part of me is American now, even if a piece of paper says otherwise. I’m no different from any of you. I grew up around you. I grew up around your culture. I think like you. I sound like you. We are human beings. Migration is a human right. I am undocumented and unafraid.
Sergio Blanco was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in Rome. He is a currently a student at Georgia Highlands College pursuing a business degree. He helped create Romanos Unidos, a local organization which aims to help Latinos and undocumented immigrants.