I came to the U.S. when I was 8 years old. Raised by a single mother, who cleaned offices at night so that she would be around to ensure that her children received a good education. Learning English through Goosebumps books, I sat with other classmates, whose skin was darker but accents were just as thick. As a youngster, I played with Pokémon trading cards and was obsessed with McDonald’s.
I am now 23. It’s been 16 years.
A year ago today, one of my friends, came out and said, “I will come out of the shadows everyday if I have to. I am a human being, I deserve to be happy.” I think I am finally at that place. I’m ready to speak for myself when I say that I’m not apologetic for the fact that I am living in the U.S.
Time after time, I’m constantly reminded that I cannot attain a license to drive my mother to the grocery store. And time after time I’m reminded that my accent is from Chicago. Everything, I have learned reminds me of this city.
This May, I will walk across the stage to receive my university diploma. As much as I want to say that I am excited, I’m not. I am scared. Scared that my bachelor’s degree will be nothing but a piece of a paper. Scared that I studied and sacrificed for nothing.
I now find myself in the same place from when I was a senior in high school. Struggling to find my place in this country, but one thing has changed; I am ready to take control and piece my identity together.
This shattered, immigration system has held me back long enough.
I know that I am “American” in every sense of the word, and no one can take that away from me. It is time that we all break free And come out! As Harvey Milk once said, “Come out to your friends…if indeed they are your friends… but once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.”
I know you feel like giving up, but I won’t let you. High school kids should not be weeping because college dreams are crushed. When 65,000 DREAMs are denied a year, there is something wrong.
Being undocumented feels like you are young forever. And there is no list for me to sign my name at the bottom. So that I can grow up. I speak English just as well as you do and I understand that you’re afraid of change. But I am not leaving.
My name is Jorge, I’m undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic.
This story is part of a series about National Coming Out of the Shadows week. Jorge was one of the undocumented youth who came out on March 10th, 2011 at the rally in Chicago at Daily Plaza. He is graduating this summer from college, and is an IYJL organizer.