Eduardo (not his real name) is a “Dreamer“– the son of an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States as child.
Eduardo’s mother came to the United States from Central America in 1995 with two-year-old Eduardo and his six-year-old sister. His mother had been a journalist in her country, but out of fear for her life, she left.
In the United States, the family lived in a sanctuary city surrounded by Mexicans/Central Americans escaping cartel and drug violence, families from the Middle East escaping war, as well as Africans, Eastern Europeans and Asians. Growing up in America, Eduardo had to adapt to the cultural norms of his friends and neighbors. Eduardo described his challenge: “I had no choice but to maintain a positive attitude because it was either take advantage of the opportunity here or go back to a place that would likely see us dead within a month. We had no choice.”
Last November Eduardo and his girlfriend were sitting at a bar having a private conversation about the recent election while they waited to be seated for dinner. A man overheard their conversation and starting hurling racial slurs at both of them. That man confronted Eduardo, declaring that Eduardo should not get too comfortable; he would soon be going “back where he came from.” Eduardo chose not to confront the man but rather to leave the restaurant with his girlfriend. He was saddened that even today, at after 22 years, he was still not accepted.
Then Eduardo remembered that his mother brought two children to this country seeking a better life, with only the clothes on their backs. Eduardo reflected on how strong and proud his mother had been despite experiencing many encounters like this. He reminded himself of his mother’s pride after his recent graduation from college with honors. “No one can take away my self-esteem or my dignity. If I’ve made it this far in my life without some people wanting me here, I’m not going to stop now. I deserve to be here as much as anyone else seeking a better life.”
Perseverance and Strength
I had the opportunity to meet Eduardo, now a mathematician, last year. I asked him what advice his mother gave him growing up. “Never give up. Be resilient. Work past your fears,” he said. We should all be so strong.