Living the American Dream through the sacrifices of my family

By Melissa Villegas  |   From : California  |   School : Social Justice Humanitas Academy

My name is Melissa and I have had difficulty being able to identify who I am and where I am from. It is not easy as counting one, two, three. My dad, who was born in the United States, has worked vigorously to be able to give my family the basic necessities. My mom, who is undocumented, has shown me so much which I want to share with everyone else. My mom came illegally, twice in her life, to the United States. Both times, she was caught which resulted in her being punished for 20 years. My mom often talks about the second time that she came because it transformed us and made us value family.


When I was six years old, my family and I went to Nochistlan, Zacatecas, Mexico to see my grandma who was very ill. It was the first and last time I saw my grandma due to the long distance. I never had the opportunity to have many memories with her. When I went to see her, it was to say our goodbyes because although the doctors said she had one year to live, she unfortunately passed away within one month. My dad, my siblings, and I came back on the plane, but my mom did not and I could not comprehend why. Usually, when we got home, it felt welcoming and filled us with warmth, but there was nothing to be happy about. Our family was incomplete for a while since my mom was not able to come with us right away. During that time, I was filled with angst and confusion, wondering why my mom wasn’t home. To this day, I understand why my mom could not come from a logical viewpoint since she did not have papers. However, the emotional toll it took on me and my family was heavy. It hurts to know that I am one of many families that unfortunately go through similar situations where their families get torn apart for not having a status. That is why I am using my voice and my experiences to bring attention to the injustice of having families be separated. When we unite with one another we can cherish our similarities and celebrate our differences as well.


Being able to share my story and connect with other people’s stories will give me the opportunity to reach my goal of changing the perspective of “us vs. them” and actually uniting together so that we move forward. Every day of my life, I do the very best I can because I am aware that sacrifices were made in order for me to have this opportunity. Therefore, I put my full effort in order to make my mom know that her journey here to the United States was worth it. Being grateful for what I have is only one step to making a change, the next thing is actually being able to give undocumented families the opportunity to become citizens. At the end of the day, we all are human beings looking for the best future possible so why not help each other.


Through expressing my experiences and feelings, I found the answer to my ongoing question of who I am. Although my dad, siblings, and I were born in the United States, I cannot forget to give credit to both my cultures. This is why I am a proud Mexican-American. I live each day celebrating both my roots and realizing the American dream that my mom sacrificed for me.

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