Jefferson Leiva: read the story

Liberty comes with adversity to many

Sitting in a virtually endless hall, waiting for the appointment of my life to begin. That one appointment that my existence has been devoted to. The one that could ultimately change my life.

But sitting here brings troublesome memories. Knowing that a history behind one’s life will be difficult to trace when it has been as complex as ours. This thought of reliving a life of adversity distances me from my true self. As if I was a complete different being.

Three years earlier, in 2011, our lives as a “normal” family would end. It was bound to happen. But we hoped that anxiety would not become reality. That day came, transforming us in the process. It revived us. It reminded us of who we are.

Our journey has brought us to this point. A point where life as we know it will change for the better. A day in which we can rest at ease.

But it is this journey that makes this topic controversial.

Many want to see us gone. Disappear into the lonesome wilderness of this world. Others support us.

We can’t escape the fact that we have become criminalized for an act that was beyond our hands. Arriving from an alien planet. One that no one has heard about. Born a criminal.


Just thinking about being undocumented makes me shrivel into a shell. It is this identity that separates me from your world. Separates us from your fertile soil. Afraid to start again. Apprehensive toward criticism.


In 2011, I was reminded of who we are. That bright morning, my father was exiled back to a hostile, desolate world. Not only did I lose my father, but we were the next targets.

We were told to meet our fate at Rough and Ready Island. Not only was I willing to leave this country for my father, but I insisted my mother follow the irrational task. Until we were told otherwise.

I was not “qualified” for deportation since I was 13.

My mother and sister would have to drive to the Port of Stockton, abandoning me and my four year old sister with a close family friend in the process. Stripped of their earnings and properties. Stripped of two lives. Two children abandoned.

I had to resume my school life that day. I was ready to give up. What else could I have lost? The uncertainty of whether I’d be able to see my family again drove me through that day.

Tears fell in art class. Finding support from my art teacher, she offered to show up to court, to take me into her home if she had to.

But what hurt me the most that day was the walk to my new “home.” Desensitized after a long day of torture. A seventh grader with a new perspective of life. Pessimism and silence formed this new character. Every step down that street set me back through memories. Preparing for the worst. Preparing for a new life.

Entering the new home was like starting over. Starting on the deep end of a cave. Trying to find a way out.

Remarkably, my mother and sister were in our new sanctuary. After consulting with a lawyer before the appointment with Homeland Security, it was clear if my mother showed up to the appointment, she would be deported.

Having to take refuge in a garage for 10 months with basically no protection against the weather is still, to this day, better than returning to the old metal shacks back at my homeland. Even though my mother developed asthma and pneumonia from the living conditions, we were able to move forward.

This is not the first case. Nor is it the last. I am not unique. I am an immigrant in this country of opportunities. I am clearly aware our family could have waited years to apply for residency in our home country.

We escaped a country of dismal adversity. A country where gang violence is as noticeable as a fourth of July celebration ― but much more frequent. Where houses and municipal services have become dilapidated. Where people live in landfills. The second poorest country in the Americas.

But by fleeing the country, we committed a crime that is punishable from five years up to a life of banishment.

I am not against deportation. I am not against President Obama’s recent executive action, either. The action he made is not amnesty, nor will it provide a path to citizenship. It’s clear this was a just and fair decision that Congress was unable to make.

This decision offers us three years of protection in which we are able to sleep at ease. But some see this as an opportunity for “parasites” to drain benefits from the government.

My mother has worked a total of 10 dead-end jobs, once working three jobs per day just to keep a new apartment to ourselves and to provide food for us. The jobs no one is willing to take. A taxpayer herself.

We are only able to spend two hours with her on a weekday cooking food and doing chores together. But for someone to decide that we are lazy bums that want to steal from the government and other people’s jobs makes me sick.

In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was passed. Unable to pay for the process then, I am currently awaiting for this life changing appointment to end at a resolution.

This reform brought anguish to our household. Knowing if that bright July morning were to return, we would lose a mother but we would be able to stay. Luckily, the executive order that President Obama made is able to keep whatever is left of immigrant families intact.

Go ahead, impeach a president that has made history. Sue and grind money out of his pocket. He does not have the same authority any other president has done in this country. An executive order? Who does that? A tyrant and dictator like Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, George Bush, and every single U.S president in history. How dare he.

The act of suing, impeaching the president and deporting all immigrants is not only primitive and dysfunctional, but disrespects the fact that this is a country founded by immigrants. A country of great minds at work.  The land of opportunity.

The president acted for what was best for the country. Deportations will continue. Departments like Homeland Security and Immigration Customs Enforcement will prioritize on deporting dangerous criminals. The border will receive increased security since the president has deployed more boots on the ground there  than any other president in history. Also, the Department of Homeland Security is setting up surveillance on the border to crack down on illegal trades and crossings. New arrivals will also be turned back to their countries. This not only improves our economy by cultivating it with skilled workers that are able to stay on the side of the law but it also increases the nation’s security.

I can’t say why some hate immigrants. I’m not sure if they think we are parasites or if they believe we are not allowed in the sacred land they love and protect constantly. We too happen to be patriotic.

Some believe we are stealing their jobs although no employer will replace hard working employees for immigrants. At least I hope they won’t because that would be plain wrong for both employees and the company itself.

According to the American Immigrant Council, “There is no correlation between immigration and minority unemployment.”

Don’t blame us for your unemployment. Take initiative and learn the skills required for that job. Think like an immigrant.

To be an undocumented immigrant means having a life ahead filled with hardship. That’s not how the experience as a newcomer to the United States should be. To emigrate from one’s homeland should be an accommodation for both the U.S. and the immigrant.

But let’s keep in mind, millions of people decide to go through racism and abuse to avoid worse affliction encountered in their home countries.

We won’t “self-deport,” as Mitt Romney suggested. To do so would require the U.S to stand up almost criminally, like the home countries we have fled from. I can’t find any “humane” action that would make us self deport.

The attack we face is daily. Both to our soul and integrity. But we would rather suffer this way than to suffer from real pain and violence.

Yet most of that pain was soothed by the action no one else was willing to make.

We are finally able to come out from the abyss of obscurity.