“We lived in fear of deportation so I didn’t talk about it in my high school—I didn’t know who I could talk about it with.”
Angie works in customer service at a bank and has an internship in business development.
When I was little and my parents left, I don’t remember them leaving; I was five. I was a happy child, but sad too. Special events at school were the saddest days because my parents weren’t there. There was always another kid without parents. My uncles and grandparents were always there, they were a great support, but I still missed my parents. I remember waking up at night to talk to them on the phone.
I was scared to see my parents after so long when they came back. I was afraid we wouldn’t have a connection that we should have, worried what we would talk about. I was eight when they came back.
Leaving Ecuador to come to the US was very sad and exciting at the same time. I was leaving my Grandma who I was very close with because she was like my second mom. But I was so excited to come here and to be with my parents. I had a picture in my head of what America would be like because of the movies. The simplest thing was so exciting. I had so many ideas about what I pictured it would be.
The day we left was so hot. My mom made us wear overalls and sweaters in June. I didn’t know we’d stay for a long time. I thought it was short term. It was hard not being with my grandmother, I had been with her every day. We called her all the time and ran up a huge phone bill. I didn’t see her for twelve years. When she finally came to visit for three weeks, I was so scared about what we’d talk about, worried about what she’d think about me. But then she came and she was exactly the same. I wanted to be next to her the whole time, even to sleep next to her. When she left, I asked for her PJ shirt, it had her smell. I wore it every day.
When Dad left—he went back to Ecuador for a year—the cycle of leaving began again. Sometimes it was scary being alone when mom was at work. Maria and I had to grow up fast and take care of ourselves while our mom was at work.
My status really started impacting my life when I was a junior in high school. We didn’t grow up talking about it. We lived in fear of deportation so I didn’t talk about it in my high school—I didn’t know who I could talk about it with or not. It really affected me when everyone started applying to college. I got college mail and I threw it all out. I could only go to one school. Neumann University had given my sister a scholarship and they offered me the same. I was very discouraged because I had no options of where I could go and what I wanted to do. I was discouraged about working at a pizza job. I didn’t see a future or anything that was going to help us. Once there was hope I started caring about school and doing well, because all my work that I was putting into it could turn into something. When deferred action (DACA) passed, I got a work permit and the same day went out and looked for a job.
About a month later I found a job. I work for a bank as customer service associate/teller. I am motivated; I see how hard my parents work, and that keeps me going. I see how far they’ve gotten and seeing that has helped to build me up to the person I am today. I do double major, taking six classes/eighteen credits each semester. I took summer classes as well and always worked since my junior year of high school. I also teach Spanish to first and second graders in the mornings before school. And I have an internship in business development. I am hardworking because my parents motivated me to do well in school and work hard.
I was scared when Maria went to Ecuador that she wouldn’t be able to come back. I applied to go to Ecuador for humanitarian reasons, because my grandmother is sick. My travel application is pending. I was devastated, but it may still get approved. I have to submit more papers. A friend from Ecuador met my grandparents and I thought, “Why does he get to see them and I don’t?” It felt so unfair. Last year, Dani went to Ecuador. I missed her; it was her first time away by herself. At first she didn’t want to go and by the end she said, can I stay longer? If my application gets accepted, Dani can go with me.
If I had to do it again, I would. It is worth it. When I was little I didn’t understand why my parents left and why they came here. I am not resentful. I know it is hard to give up being with your own children for years—to give them that opportunity. They gave me something I would not have had, they opened so many doors for us. My parents sent cool stuff that other kids didn’t have, but I would have given that up to be with them. My little sister Dani was born here, so she is a citizen. She lucked out but she is still part of the cycle. We lack the status she has but I always try to tell her that when I was little I didn’t have my parents—they were not with me every day like you are able to have, so you have to respect them. I understand why they came and I am grateful for that.
When I leave in the morning, I go to my internship, I go to class, to work. I leave at 8:00 AM and come back at 8:00 at night. I am very dedicated, ambitious, and hardworking. I see my parents and how they do things and why. That motivates me to keep trying and never give up. We’ve had to learn to manage multiple things.
In the past we couldn’t do the things we can now. An internship needs a social security number. I want to take advantage of each opportunity that I didn’t have before. We are given the chance to do what we can now because of DACA. If DACA does not continue everything will get taken away from me. I am doing things that I never thought possible. I never thought I could come this far.
Portraits of People on the Move tells the stories of Philadelphia-area immigrants through their own words on the Supperdance.com blog and was first shown as an exhibition June 25–28, 2015, at the Gray Area of Crane Arts in Philadelphia. The exhibition was created as a companion work to Supper, People on the Move by Cardell Dance Theater, a dance inspired by themes of migration.