I came to the U.S. in second grade, undocumented. I’m now 25 years old, and for the last nine years, I have endured a bureaucratic maze that may or may not lead towards U.S. citizenship. I still await my naturalization, but I hope that soon enough other immigrants can join me when our U.S. Congress finally creates a pathway to citizenship for millions like me.
As an immigrant, sometimes it feels like there’s a waiting game being played. My immigrant mom waited 10 years until she could see my abuelita again, who lived in Mexico. It was over Skype. One of my aunts also waited over 10 years to see my abuelita. She saw her after she was deported because of a traffic ticket.
We immigrants live our lives in limbo. I was only nine when I found out that my mother, a single parent, had been arrested. She had tried to buy a phone plan with a fake ID. It was the only way we could obtain a phone for our family. I wept immediately because at that age immigrant children also know the implications and what it could mean for the family.
The truth is, for as long as we don’t have a pathway to citizenship, immigrants will continue to yearn to see their relatives, to check their rearview mirror every few seconds to prevent encounters with the police, to wonder what will happen to their children if one day they abruptly disappear from this land.
In July, a district court judge jeopardized the status of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by ruling it unlawful. Immediately after it broke the news, I saw Coloradan organizations that support immigrant rights scramble to understand what the decision meant for the DACA program and their communities. It’s hard to watch whole communities in a state of anxiety, worried for the future of their neighbors.
This month, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and 13 other state organizations joined together to urge our U.S Senators from Colorado, Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, to support a reconciliation bill that includes a pathway to citizenship.
If our Senators truly value the bonds and well-being of all families and the inherent worth of every individual living in this land, then they must act with the urgency and boldness that our times demand and fight for a pathway to citizenship. I do not put it lightly when I say that our communities are at stake.
Whether the Senate Parliamentarian rules for or against including a pathway to citizenship as part of the reconciliation package, we don’t have the time to wait for another election cycle to fall within our favor. We must pass immigration through reconciliation now. It is the biggest opportunity that we have had in many years and the biggest that we will likely have in the foreseeable future. The window of opportunity is closing fast.
Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper, will you get in the ring and take us to the last round, win or lose? The bell is ringing.
Alexis Valeriano Hernandez is an immigrant from Mexico and is the Denver Fellow for Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. He lives in Denver.