The American (not always told) Journey of an Immigrant

April 3, 2019
By Tatiana Torres, CSR Regional Director

I am an immigrant. I represent the countless other faces that have come before me to America and those that will continue to arrive. Every immigrant has their own story and not every immigrant has the face of a Latino. It is important for us to understand that immigrants come in all colors but those that are of color are generally the face of immigration. This blog is not being written to compare or compete with different migrant groups but rather collectively fight for what’s left of the American Dream. In order to understand why I am passionate about immigrant rights, you must understand my story first.

I was born in Bogota, Colombia and migrated to the United States at the age of five years old. My lineage is one of hard work. My parents taught me a very important lesson that has crafted my identity: one must always build for generations to come through hard work, persistence, and strength. My father left a successful career in the Colombian Airforce when he was being persuaded to succumb to the Cartel Wars of the late 80’s.  His biggest fear was that his two children were at risk of growing up fatherless or being kidnapped. With that in mind, they left their careers, families, and comfortable lives, for their unknown journey to America.

For many years, I was undocumented. There have been people in my life that have advised me not to tell this truth but if I don’t share, I would be hiding and denying a major part of me. Being undocumented is gut wrenchingly painful. Your identity is thwarted. Fear of being found out is constant. I wanted to make my parents proud. How could I take care of them when I couldn’t go to college or work legally? How could I be an example to my two younger siblings? There was no choice. I had to figure this out.

And I did. I paid for my broadcast journalism degree at Montclair State University by cleaning doctors’ offices and banks, making sandwiches at a deli, taking in clothes at a dry cleaner, and working a counter at a jewelry store. I was constantly on the run after classes to make sure I got to my jobs on time. Every penny went to my college education, including the money from the second job my mother took on to help me pay.  

Even though I am now a proud US Citizen, have a great career, and a master’s degree from a prestigious university, the pain of being undocumented is still there. It has increased over the past three years. It has been painful to see myself in the faces of the almost 700,000 Dreamers (DACA recipients). The images of our borders break my heart. I had to do something. Thus, why in December, I decided to go to the border and serve for seven days at the largest women and children detention center in the USA in Dilley, Texas.

I have known America to be my home for 33 years. What I was about to see during those seven days broke my heart even more. This is not the America I want to believe exists.

This is the first blog in a three part series that Tatiana Torres is writing about her experience at the border last year.

3 responses to “The American (not always told) Journey of an Immigrant”

  1. Andres Echeverri says:

    United we are stronger, keep up the good fight.

  2. JD says:

    Thank you for sharing your story…looking forward to the next blog post…

  3. Chris Jenkins says:

    Beautifully expressed and i am so glad to know more about you and your journey. Only through these kinds of heartfelt and honest stories can we come to know the truth about the human family.

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