Voices of Our Tomorrow Why the issue of immigration matters to meBy: Abril Arriaga I am the daughter of an undocumented immigrant. My father is from Mexico. He crossed the border into the United States at an early age. He found a job and my mom after coming here. He became the father that I never had in my life when I was 8 years old. Ever since then, he has been an amazing father, blessing my mom with two more girls. He works 13 hours every day and only gets Sunday to spend with his family. When he comes home tired, it’s hard to see. When I was 8 years old, my dad was stopped by a police officer. Since my dad is undocumented, he didn’t have a driver’s license so he was detained. At the time, my mom was nine months pregnant with my sister. They took him in. We didn’t have money for a lawyer but my mom was willing to do whatever it took to make sure he was released. After someone from immigration investigated whether my mom was giving birth any day, my dad was released because of his cooperation with authorities, he was told. We went to a lawyer to start the process to get his documents in order, but we had to stop because we couldn’t afford it. They gave us something that said he was being processed, which we were told would help him if he were ever to get pulled over by police. This went on until I was 12, when they told us he would have to go to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. We were scared that he wouldn’t come back if he went. We asked if there was another option. We were told there wasn’t. We’ve been waiting ever since. It’s been seven years. The situation has been hard on my mom, especially because she has to take care of me — I go to monthly doctor’s appointments. I wish those who think that undocumented people live off of the government could see us. We don’t live off of the government. My father is an amazing person who has given us things to show us that he cares and appreciates us. As the daughter of an undocumented parent, I want to help as best as I can to help him legalize his status and show him and others that we can help our parents get the dreams they’ve dreamed of and show them the appreciation they have shown us. I want to graduate for my dad and show him that he taught me well, that I appreciate everything that he has done for me, and that he changed our life. I think our immigration laws need to change, especially for the people who deserve it and really need it. People might not agree with me, but people should have the right to speak for what they believe is right and that’s how I feel about the system. Editor’s note:The idea of youth voice takes on many forms, including sharing experiences and ideas with policy makers, which many of the young people of Our Tomorrow have done. Youth leaders within the Our Tomorrow network have learned about funding for youth services and are participating in a task force with adults to form recommendations on investments in youth, presented their ideas on sex education to the State Board of Education, and participated in our annual civics fair, Speak Up! Speak Out! However, young people’s experiences and ideas are abundant and we at Our Tomorrow and UP Partnership wanted to create a space for them to share their thoughts on current issues they face and those they see on the news. Voices of Our Tomorrow is a series of blogs that we will share every Thursday that highlight these experiences, thoughts and opinions.These thoughts and opinions do not expressly represent the thoughts of UP Partnership, its leadership team or board of directors.