Imagine not being able to hug your parents for over a decade. Imagine being scared to go home and having all you’ve worked for taken from you.
Mery (her last name will be excluded for privacy reasons) is an undocumented citizen living in New York. She is originally from Ecuador but has been in the United States for almost 16 years. Mery, like many other undocumented citizens, lives in fear in a country where she thought she could have a great life. Her dream has become her worst nightmare. The struggles of illegal immigrants in the U.S. are extreme. No matter what kind of person they are, they’re limited in what they can do for themselves and for their loved ones.
Mery was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, in the mid nineteen hundreds. Her family wasn’t rich but they were able to provide her with decent schooling and discipline. She grew up playing basketball and loving sports. She would wake up early in the morning to play basketball so that she also had time for the homework she was given. She was at the top of her class and always worked hard.
“I was offered many scholarships to play basketball in universities all over Ecuador.” But she decided it was best to stay in Quito for college. She worked as a teacher for elementary school, middle school and high school. She also became a gym teacher and a coach to help kids develop their love for sports the way she did. She was facing a good life in her own country but it wasn’t enough for her. She wanted to make the most out of what she had, so Mery decided to get a working visa and come to New York City.
When Mery arrived she looked for work as a Spanish teacher or a gym teacher but no one would hire her because her university degree from Ecuador meant nothing in the United States. In desperation she had her friend help her find work as a housekeeper, taking care of an elderly woman. All was fine for the first year until she was told that she had to renew her visa. “I didn’t know I had to renew it. 9/11 had just happened and I was scared that I would get sent back to Ecuador. I was still hopeful for the future.” She was now an undocumented citizen living in a difficult country. According to globalcitizen.org, immigrants in the United States face challenges such as; difficulties securing work, difficulties securing and owning housing and troubles accessing services. Pewhispanic.org says, “The 2007 median household income of unauthorized immigrants was $36,000, well below the $50,000 median household income for U.S.-born residents.” It’s fair to see that being an undocumented resident of the U.S. is not an easy life.
She continues to work as a nanny and has been lucky enough to find a family that has employed her for almost all of the 15 years she’s been here. Mery is happy now but as the kids grow up and get older, as much as they may love her and consider her family, Mery is needed less and less. She’s looking for work and part time jobs. But there is little happiness or hope for the future in the life of an illegal American, no matter how amazing or law abiding you are. “I don’t regret coming here. I love my family and I love the family I work for. I’m happy and for me that’s all that’s important. I hope that in time people will realize that I’m a good person and I just want to be part of society like everyone else” she says.