One Local Speaks Up About Her Families Experience
By Tanya Giraldo
Immigration reform continues to be a topic of discussion without a clear solution.
Currently, Immigration Reform 2013 has been put on a stand still as the House of Representatives have decided to address reformation not as the bipartisan, comprehensive reform bill the Senate passed, but taking a piecemeal approach in which every area of the issue will be looked at and considered.
While immigration reform has been disputed as far back as 1798, according to the Immigrant Learning Center, the story continues to come from the political standpoint.
Here’s One True Story:
Alexandra Perales was 15 when police showed up on her doorstep in early October 2008.
“We first thought that something must’ve happened in the neighborhood,” Perales said. “Perhaps there was a break-in or a misunderstanding.”
What Perales didn’t expect was that she, along with her mother, father and her older sister, would be arrested and taken into custody by U.S. Immigration Officials.
“All I remember is being in a jail cell, not thinking, just crying,” Perales said. “We all cried and I was very scared. I even had to pee there in the jail cell with everyone watching.”
Perales and her sister were let go because they were minors and were picked up by an aunt after five hours.
“I remember my father telling me that everything was going to be okay,” Perales said. “When only my sister and I were being let go, I knew things wouldn’t be.”
Perales resumed her freshman year of high school while living with her aunt. Things weren’t the same and her grades quickly started to decline due to the stress.
“I was without my mom and following different rules,” Perales said. “I was very stressed and would visit my parents in jail. I soon realized that I was failing my freshman year.”
After four months, Perales’ mother was released while she awaited a hearing and five months later her father was released as well.
During the time they awaited a hearing the family wasn’t the same. They knew that the time they had together was a momentary blessing while their future was being decided.
“I remember one hearing in 2010 in which my parents were told that one of their appeals were denied and I started to cry along with my mother and sister,” Perales said. “My father was very calm and didn’t even tear up. I was so frustrated and confused as to why he could be so calm. I now know that it was because he had to be strong for us.”
Every route that their parents tried to take towards gaining their citizenship was denied and earlier this year Perales’ parents packed their bags and left for their home country.
After much determination, Perales graduated high school and now works two jobs to help her sister pay for the costs of their parents’ battle for citizenship.
“If you look at a 19-year-old now, they’re partying and having fun with friends. I can’t do that,” Perales said. “I am much more mature due to this experience. I appreciate a lot more and I worry about things.”
Perales is only one of the 4.5 million U.S.-born children who had at least one unauthorized immigrant parent in 2010, according to the Center for American Progress.
As stated in Fox16.com, 40-50 percent of Arkansas’ foreign-born population are in this country illegally.
Perales talks to her parents over the phone when she can and she hopes to one day be reunited with them. In the meantime, she continues to enter the working world and hopes to one day be able to go to college.
“Before, I never valued the things that were available to me. I always wanted to go out and I never understood why my parents wouldn’t let me,” Perales said. “I look at how others treat their parents now that I am no longer with mine. I tell them to appreciate them because you never know when your parents won’t be around.”