Undocumented immigration affects several students at Los Altos High School and their families. The school’s student newspaper, The Talon, investigated the topic to provide information about what it means to be an undocumented student in the area. Below is the account of one undocumented student at Los Altos High.
At the age of 7, Lily watched her mother make a decision that would forever change her family members’ lives. Lily, her sisters and her mother left their home in Puebla Tejarta, Mexico, to meet up with Lily’s father, who had left for the United States two years before.
“I didn’t have a choice whether or not I wanted to go,” Lily said. “It’s because my father was here in the United States, and my mother couldn’t live another day without my dad. After my father had left, all I remembered would be his phone calls, as he would call for my birthday or for my sisters’ birthdays.”
With Lily’s father in mind, the remaining family members set off to cross the border. Guided by “coyotaje” smugglers, they along with others hiked the distance across the border to the United States.
“A total of 15 people were in my group; we all walked three days, straight through the desert,” Lily said. “There was no airplane, no nothing. That experience, it scarred all of us. For three years, my sisters were scared of helicopters. They would hide under a tree every time we would go out.”
The border crossing was rough. Statistically speaking, the U.S. Border Patrol estimates that more than 5,600 people have died crossing the border illegally since 1998.
“Of the 15 group members, only 13 of us made it to America,” Lily said. “One of the people who died was elderly. Since there was no water, he drank his urine and he died.”
Because of the treacherous journey, the group was unable to hang on to their possessions.
“We took a bag of clothes, but we left it behind in the desert,” Lily said. “When it came time to cross the border, we just couldn’t take anything with us.”
However, her physical journey paled in comparison to the hardships she would face in her new country. After finally settling on American soil, the family had to work hard to make ends meet.
“I remember that we didn’t have to worry about paying for rent and for school events in Mexico,” Lily said. “Here, I feel like we go through struggle after struggle just to make ends meet.”
While Lily’s family worried about money and rent, Lily spent the next few years acclimating to her new environment. Language barriers coupled with her lack of proper identification left her feeling alienated and alone.
“When I came to school for the first time, I came in the middle of the school year, so the other students all knew each other,” she said. “Since I didn’t know a single drop of English, I was completely lost. Thank goodness my teacher was bilingual.”
Lily’s experiences were not unique. The Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends Project estimated that in 2008, 13.5 percent of all K-12 students in California were the children of undocumented immigrants.
“For me, coming to America is just about having the opportunity to further my education and further my family and to learn and live,” she said. “Coming to America meant not being scared. In Mexico, there are a lot of really bad things happening over there. I would love to go back home, but not to Mexico the way it is right now.”
Lily is a senior; she plans to attend a four-year college after graduation.
For more of The Talon’s coverage on immigration, visit immigration.lahstalon.org.