Commentary

My journey to Washington for a pathway to citizenship | Opinion

In Pa., a path to citizenship would bring more than $51 million to the state’s economy, funds that can be used to improve the quality of life of thousands of young people and adults

Migrants pray at a March 2 demonstration at San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Mexico, to demand clearer U.S. migration policies (Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images/The Conversation).

By Erendira Zamacona

I remember the day I migrated from Mexico and arrived in the United States as if it were yesterday. It seemed like a dream come true, but it turned into a living nightmare. In the same way that thousands of undocumented immigrants migrated from their native countries looking for a better future, so did I. I was filled with hope and dreams for my family and myself.

Unfortunately, no one warned me of the dangers I would face before I arrived at the so-called land of opportunity. During my trajectory here I saw countless women being assaulted, I experienced hunger for several days along with many others and their little ones, and I felt the shared pain of seeing entire families being kidnapped.

Right now, there are an estimated 11 million people like me in this country, human beings with stories as diverse as this nation’s founding. After 16 years of being undocumented, I have learned what that label entails: living in constant fear of being deported, being singled out, and being discriminated against for my language and immigration status. But the most painful part of it all is the unattainable dream of giving my family in Tlapanalá a hug again.

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For a long time, I suppressed the possibility of obtaining citizenship. In other words, my life was one of survival rather than living, and even more so after having given birth to my three children. But after joining the organization Make the Road in Pennsylvania, I found my voice and my desire to fight for a better future for myself and the 11 million undocumented, including the 115,000 immigrants in Pennsylvania. There are so many people in our state who, like me, continue to suffer from the separation of our families, and all that it means to be undocumented.

That is why, on Tuesday, Dec. 7, I traveled to Washington D.C. and joined hundreds of allies and immigrants demanding the same right: to be valued and seen by the country we now call “home”.

After years of working in care, taking care of others’ loved ones and little ones as if they were my own, and cleaning houses, I and the 11 million immigrants in this country need a path to citizenship. Without our hard work, this country’s day-to-day needs could not be met. Our community is everywhere: we are in kitchens, farms, in housework, in construction, and in small and large towns.

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It is time for us to be recognized for all the good that we bring to this country. Likewise, it is time for our representatives and legislators like U.S. Sen Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to realize that by providing a path to citizenship, this nation’s economy will be strengthened.

In Pennsylvania, a path to citizenship would bring more than $51 million to the state’s economy, funds that can be used to improve the quality of life of thousands of young people and adults.

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Not being able to hug my family for more than 16 years is something that I do not wish on anyone. Our community is tired of giving its all for a country that rejects our existence and makes us feel invisible.

To President Joe Biden and our representatives, I ask that you fulfill your promise to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who wake up each morning in fear of never seeing their children and family again.

The time is now for our community to be treated with dignity, respect, courage, equality, and empathy. We are all human beings. Nobody is more, nobody is less.

Erendira Zamacona is a member of Make the Road Pennsylvania. Follow them on Twitter @maketheroadpa

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