Imagine moving to a country where you have no idea how to speak its language at all. You leave your family behind for the chance at a better life. Being poor in America does not compare to the poverty-stricken people in other countries. Both situations of course are upsetting but people in America don’t move out of the country for freedom and better opportunities like people who leave their home country to come to “the land of opportunities.”
“I came here because our life was difficult in Peru. I saw the opportunity to live a better life and I took it at the first chance I got,” my mother, Carmen Coca, said. She was the only one who went to America with her father because she was already out of high school and it would be suspicious if her whole family would have come.
My mom was born in Lima, Peru. She lived with her dad, mom and younger sister. At the age of 18 my mom and her dad came to America with a temporary visa for her father’s work. She had to leave her mom and sister behind in Peru until they would be able to come over and live here a year after she had moved.
“It was scary to come here because I was illegal and I was so young. I was terrified that I would get deported back, because it took me five years to be able to get my visa and come here,” Coca said.
My grandfather left my mom with family in Connecticut. She tried to find a job because to stay with them, they made her pay rent.
“While I was in high school I got a job as a nanny for three kids at a house near my cousin’s so that I could pay them to be able to live in their house, because they didn’t have much money to be taking me in and paying for my necessities so I helped them so that I could stay,” Coca said.
Later on my aunt, grandmother and grandfather were able to cross the border and live with my mom. My mom graduated from her Catholic school in Peru. Her sister, who is five years younger than her, began school in the U.S. as a freshman in high school. My mom pretended to be 18 and returned to high school for her senior year because she wanted help learning English. No one in her family really knew how to speak the language.
“It was hard to learn English. I knew I was bad at it so I didn’t like to speak it to other kids in my school. I went through my only year in high school here in America avoiding speaking to kids who only spoke English,” Coca said.
She was put into the ESL, English as a Second Language, program. The only person who knew my mom was illegal in the country was her ESL teacher.
Just how we have to learn Spanish to graduate, we struggle but we go through it because we need it to succeed. That’s how my mom felt, she wanted to learn English because she was living in America. She had difficulty with learning it so she stuck around the other kids who spoke Spanish because she was embarrassed of her accent and how she didn’t know very much English.
My mom never graduated from her high school in Connecticut because she didn’t really care about graduating in America. She had already graduated in her home country and she didn’t really have the qualifying grades to graduate again anyway.
“I went into high school knowing I wouldn’t graduate. I just really wanted to learn English but you can’t learn a language perfectly in one year. I had a hard accent and it was embarrassing,” Coca said. “I didn’t start speaking English again until three years later when I met my husband and he would force me to speak English and practice because he said that I needed it.”
Her younger sister, Pamela Balmaceda, was always “A” honor roll. By the time she graduated she had been offered an academic scholarship but she was not able to accept it because she was an immigrant. Since she could not accept the scholarship and her family did not have the money to afford college anyway, she found a job to help support herself.
“It was sad when my counselor told me I could not accept my scholarship just because I was illegal,” Balmaceda said. “I had worked so hard because I really wanted to make something of myself here in America and I always put all of my effort into school for that, even when I was in Peru.”
People come here for the opportunities and to live a better life than the ones they had in their home country. When the opportunity that an 18 year old gets to be able to have free money given to them for their hard work and dedication to their studies is taken away just because they are not legally a citizen in this country is horrible to hear.
If you put your work and effort into something to better yourself and someone just takes all that hard work you did and throws it away is heart breaking. Especially if that hard work took you four years so that you could make something of yourself and the government doesn’t even give you the chance.