“The airplane glides through day and night as I wonder what will happen when we reach our destination. The United States, the land of the Free, the land of opportunity. At five years old, an age when nothing is everything and no worries castrate your mind, I follow my patents free to run and play not understanding the risks we are taking. But the older we grow, the more turbulent our lives become. Instant fatigue infuses our legs as we resist crashing down, our backs do not break, they shatter to pieces, our minds flood with the blood’s stress stench and infect us to revolting measures. Dealing with the aftermath is the most painful of all stages to go through, that is, of we even weathered the storm. This is the life of an undocumented immigrant.”
More than 64,000 undocumented immigrant children graduate from U.S. high schools every year. Most were brought across the country’s borders at a young age and didn’t know they were here illegally until they tried to get a driver’s license or a Social Security card, said Michele Waslin, a senior policy analyst for the American Immigration Council in Washington, D.C.
“I try to stay busy and not think about how screwed up everything is and why am I living this life and feeling hopeless.”
“I never paid attention to my status because I wasn’t directly affected at that time. But as I grew up and I went through experiences which make us realize our place in this country—these experiences made me realize what it means to be undocumented.”
The incident that stands out in his mind is his grandfather’s death when he was 14 years old. Due to being undocumented, Barrios could not attend the funeral. However, his mother chose to take the risk of not being allowed to come back and crossed the border to see her father buried. She managed to come back.
“The whole idea of do good in school and that these opportunities will be available to you once you graduate, the idea that if you work hard that it will pay off, for many undocumented youth and students that’s really not our reality,” explains Barrios.