Family is everything to me, family represents home and strength. However, when those you love are taken from you through injustices, change becomes a challenge.
When I went into work that day, I had no idea what was coming . . . no one did. When the bell rang for break, it bounced off the walls and faded to a distant echo as we headed towards the cafeteria. Lines began to form beyond the doors and soon fear started to spread across everyone’s faces, as the realization hit: we were being led to our judgment. Herded like animals, one by one, they checked each and every one of us, deporting hundreds, including my friends and family, back to Mexico. Just like that, they were gone. Lives were changed as families were separated, leaving tear-stained faces everywhere, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I felt helpless watching it all play out. I was mocked and made fun of throughout the whole process, overlooking fear and sadness across seas of worn out faces. Planned from the start, it’s no coincidence that the day they happened to show up “unexpectedly,” was a day of honor and celebration, a Mexican national holiday picked specifically to make a statement. The words are still etched in my mind; I’ll never forget the officers saying, “This is your special day. Now you’re going to go celebrate in your country,” and “Don’t worry, the trip is on us,” all with smiles on their faces, as they attacked our heritage. None of us felt safe.
Aside from the many empty chairs around the factory, work the next day went on as usual, as if those missing had never existed. Many friends were lost that day, people I had known and worked with for years, just gone. It was heartbreaking and sad to realize that in the blink of an eye, they were gone forever.
In the end, immigration was to blame. Not only did they deport my friends and co-workers, but they took my husband and had him deported. My husband was gone when I needed him the most; I was pregnant. How else are you supposed to provide and make money when you’re already eight months along? They didn’t understand, and I don’t think they ever would’ve. When asked to share my story for my citizenship test, I remembered the factory, and I told them exactly what I thought, “You guys are to blame. You could have helped me, but you didn’t. I didn’t matter. None of us workers did, illegal or not.”
Through the change I endured with the loss of the people around me, I began to realize that my family was keeping me strong. Without family, there is nothing; without family I’d be lost. Family is home to me because even though I may have been born in Mexico, my home is where I have everything. This is where I have everything, and for that, I am blessed. Life can be hard, from watching people that surround you return to a life they had fled from, to having the one you love missing from your life. But at the end of the day, to have overcome so many struggles and kept going . . . that’s love.
Family makes this place home, and home is where my story begins.
This story originally appeared in Facing Change: Reflections on Civic Health & Social Trust, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by the University of Northern Colorado in Greely, Colorado.