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They took him from me

They took him from me. They took him from my brother. They took him from my sister. They took him from our home.

Late on an early January night in 2013, we were besieged with persistent pounding and shouts of police outside our door. Fear began to fill my mother, realizing the imminent danger that could destroy our lives if she opened the door. She knew how this moment will change the future for her children, who were in deep slumber, unaware of the situation unfolding. She recognized that escape was futile. When she opened the door, the police asked for their target, my father. Once my father heard who they were looking for, he realized his fate was sealed. He stepped forward and told the officers that he was who they were looking for. They took him from us and escorted him to their vehicles while my mother stayed behind in tears. That was the last time I saw him for months. I never had the chance to say goodbye.

When I woke up the following morning, there was no indication that my father was in police custody, miles away from home. My mother acted as though this jarring incident never happened. She continued her morning routine. For days, I had no idea my father wasn’t going to come home. After three days, my mother finally accepted the fact that she couldn’t hide the truth any longer. She told us, through tears, that our father was taken to prison and would be deported to Mexico. As a twelve-year-old, I was perplexed. I never knew that our father could be taken from us so suddenly. My sister, brother, and I cried in anguish as soon as we were told he would never return home. My brother had just turned seven and was attached to my father. He cried the hardest as he realized his father was taken from him. His anguished screams and shouts still bring tears to my eyes to this very day.

The reason my father was taken away? He was born in Mexico and never gained legal citizenship to live in the U.S. He moved to the U.S. with my mother in order to raise their children here with the opportunities they never had. After living in the US since 1991, he was forced to leave the family and life he had worked so hard to build. I was angered by the fact that my father could be taken away from us with little or no warning. As years went by, my bitterness slowly deteriorated. But I can never truly forgive what they took from my family

The next time I saw him was months later at Oaxaca International Airport. We  flew over 2,000 miles just to visit our father once again. I was the oldest and terrified of the responsibility placed on me to assure my younger siblings’ safety. When we landed, I told my siblings to help me with the luggage. As I passed them the luggage, my brother caught sight of my father. He dropped his bags and started to cry as he ran to reach my father. When he was close enough, my brother jumped while my father caught and hugged him. My sister quickly followed, running while tears streamed down her face. My face started running with tears, but I couldn’t run to my father. I had to move the luggage in order to check in. I couldn’t bear to call my siblings away from their father to help me move the luggage. But I could feel myself slowly breaking down and trembling in a mixture of feelings. As soon as I could, I ran to my father with open arms and tears overflowing. My father tried to hug us all at once, which caused him to stumble back. We couldn’t control ourselves. All of us just wanted to feel and love our father as though there was no tomorrow.

I spent that summer with my father in Mexico. It was a huge change from life the U.S.The summers are the only time I have with him, just a few months every couple of years. When I have schoolwork over the summer, I have to stay behind while my brother and sister go to see our father. I talk to my father over the phone, but it doesn’t quite feel the same as talking to him in the flesh.

I understand what my father thought as he left the place he called home to a land that didn’t welcome him. He had told me that he moved here for our sake. He left his family to build a new one with opportunities he could only dream of. He knew he could stay put and raise us with the same situation he grew up with: backbreaking labor, no education, no jobs, no possibility of a decent life. Or he could assure us free education, stable income, and lasting housing. Being born in the US is a reminder of the sacrifice my parents made for me. I will never take this gift for granted.

But their choices have consequences and us children, who had no part in the choices made years ago, have to suffer. I live in constant fear that our family will be torn apart again if my mother is taken as well. As the oldest child, I have greater responsibility in order to minimize my mother’s risks. For example, I have to drive so my mother won’t as she doesn’t have a license. While some teens look forward to getting their license, I was forced to get mine and am constantly apprehensive that my privilege to drive could be taken from me. I have to drive my mom everywhere, which causes me to have less time for schoolwork and forces me to change plans so  I can be home in case my mother needs a ride anywhere. I have to act as a translator for my mother, leading to loss of personal time. But how can I complain when she gave up so much for me?

A family friend that has lived with us for over a year was also deported a few weeks ago, so our family understands that there is no guarantee of security. My responsibility and stress has visibly increased as fear takes over me. My brother and sister’s future has increased my fear. As the oldest child, my mother had placed the responsibility of taking care of my siblings in case anything happens. If my mother was taken the same way my father was, I will have to look after my siblings. I will have to decide if we will move to Mexico in order to stay with our parents or to stay in the United States to continue our education and take advantage of the opportunities given to us. There is also a possibility I will live in the U.S. alone, continuing to build a career while my siblings will be sent to Mexico and live with their parents. The idea of living alone, far away from my family, leaves me in tears. Why should anyone as young as I am be making these difficult decisions?

This has taken a toll on me emotionally. I always have a fear that I might return home with no one inside. After Trump’s call for major immigration reforms, my family has been increasingly afraid for the uncertain future. My mother has pushed me in school, wanting my future to turn out better than her’s. I have to continue my life here, assuring my parent’s sacrifice will not go to waste. I cannot let this incident lead me off my path toward a great future. I have to continue, for my mother, for my siblings, for me.

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