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Celebrating Immigrant Mothers

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Immigrant mothers are worthy of admiration.

This is how I concluded a short essay about my undocumented mother, Vilma, who has overcome her fear of deportation. In the essay, I wrote about my mother’s unwavering spirit, her sacrifices, and her ability to always have a positive outlook during difficult times for our family.

I owe a lot to my mother. Had Vilma not pushed me from day one, I probably would not be where I am today – and I am convinced that this kind of support serves as the foundation that many immigrants rely on.

However, my mother is not the only person who has worked hard in pursuit of the American dream.

I recently learned about the story of Rosario, an immigrant mother who came to the United States in search of better opportunities – but has been unable to reunite with her son for the past 12 years.

Despite all of the challenges in her life, Rosario continues to work to support her family back home and fight for immigration reform so that they may one day be united again.

Rosario’s dream is to reunite with her son Ramon, who she has not seen in over a decade. Her story is the focus of a new music video titled “Amor Migrante” performed by the band Elena & Los Fulanos, which you can watch below.

I wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day by recognizing and celebrating immigrant mothers across the country – and in doing so, sharing a little bit about who they are, and what they have done for their families.

Last week I asked for story submissions from immigrant mothers, documented or undocumented, and the response was overwhelming.

Some of the stories submitted are happy and encouraging, demonstrating the strength of immigrant women who have overcome all kinds of obstacles in order to provide their children with better opportunities.

Other stories are not as cheerful – and serve as a reminder of the challenges undocumented mothers go through each and every single day.

The following selection comes from a couple of the stories that were submitted to America’s Voice Education Fund. Whether you submitted or not, we would like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all immigrant mothers across the country – thank you for everything that you do!

Note: Last names have been omitted in order to protect the identity of the mothers.

Lucy from Ohio writes: 

This year I don’t get to spend time with her in person, but my heart is always with her. After 15 years worth of sacrifice for her kids in the U.S., my mom made the difficult decision to leave to care for her own mother 4,000 miles away from us in Peru. She is the biggest example of love and compassion in my life, and although I miss her dearly, I am SO proud of her. I hope to one day be half the woman she is. Feliz dia Mami!

Laura from Texas writes:

My story is not about my mom but about a very special Mom/person her name is Yolanda and she’s my niece and my hero.  Her story is unique and her situation very unfair and frustrating.  She  has been in the US for over 20 years, living in the shadows and hiding  trying to function, and what’s tragic about her story is she should NOT be hiding, you see her father is a US citizen and so is her grandfather. She moved to the US as an adult and was told she did not qualify for derivative citizenship and would have to go to the back of the line and wait.  She has been waiting for over 20 years and  she now has 2 sons who are US citizens and so are her 2 younger sisters, and her entire family lives here in America so she can’t possibly go back to Mexico.  My niece Yolanda is smart, hardworking and well educated.  She has a degree in Chemical  Engineering form the University Technica in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon Mexico and has so much  to offer this great country she loves and respects but has no social security and therefore is forced to clean homes.  I often cry to see  the great injustice and all the potential in her just being wasted.  She could be a great asset to this country.

Kevin from New Jersey writes:

My wife is Rosy Carlin, an immigrant mother… She helps all who she can with what little we have and maintains a positive outlook–and a positive life.  Being active in her church, running the chorus and participating in church governance,  she has little time for herself.  Her example to her children will live on in the generations as her children copy her, and her children, and their children.  God Bless the immigrant mothers and all that they bring to these blessed United States of America.  

Tracy from California writes:

My story is not that of my mom but a woman who has been a mother to my kids, she came to the USA many years ago and  has raised 3 of the most wonderful kids, they are all like family to me I call her my kids second mom, she has taught them good values, taught them to understand and speak Spanish. I wish for her to be able to be a citizen. She has dreams of taking that test and getting her citizenship…. I wish her the very Happiest of Mother’s Day.  I can’t imagine life if she was not here for me, my kids, her kids, and her community as she does so much. Thank you Claudia, you’re one in a MILLION 🙂

Netha from Maryland writes:

My mother Marie was the catalyst for my siblings and I to succeed and survive in the US. My mother has worked a seamstress, a nanny, a teacher even an accounts payable at various corporations. All so that we could go to school and receive educations that would grant us several opportunities. Outside of us all having our own careers, we have established our own families and are still extremely connected with her. Her adaptability throughout the years has been a constant inspiration in my life and I am just working hard now so that I can begin pay her back for all she has given me.

Mike from Florida writes:

My mother worked so hard so we can actually have a Christmas present like our peers that middle school year. She never made us feel guilty though we knew she did everything for our comfort. Neither her nor my father came to this country with the ability to learn English, now they own their own business and 10 years later are naturalized and established entrepreneurs in this beloved country… If I ever feel worthless, I know I’m still my mother’s child. I wish I could be with her. She knows I’m fine but nothing like looking her in the face and saying “I know I can never pay you back, but my plan is to show you that I understand, you are appreciated.”

Halima from New York writes:

I am a mother of two . My husband went through deportation and I have had a long journey with doctors office, ER’s, lawyers to help me keep my family united since my my two boys were 6 and 7 years old. I was so worried that my family will fall apart  my husband back to his country and my kids and me staying in the country here. It was a huge nightmare especially when the immigration officers came into our house looking for my husband and they were banging on the doors and pushing it really hard, they want to break that door to get in and take him away.

I still have that sound until now in my ears and each time now I heard a banging on the door hard I got so scared and my heart start racing… It was a really bad and sad day and from that day my journey start with headaches, a very bad headaches that took me to the ER to have oxygen so I can relax and bread, I started getting sick… But one day came I told myself “I cannot give up like that and collapsed like that I have to stand up and fight for my husband and fight for my kids and fight for my husband too he was my true love and good husband and father and he deserve that I fight for him”.

We came to United States as immigrant for a better life and future for us and for our children and we always looking to do good things. When you leave your own country where your born and you come to live in another country – that country becomes your own home, and your second mom because the country means “MOTHER.”

We were really  struggling with deportation for a long years until we won the fight against deportation and my husband became legal resident. My two boys are 15 and 16 years old now, and we say goodbye to sadness and say hello to family reunited again. May God bless all immigrant families and stay always reunited and happy with their children  and wives and husbands…

Vitoria from NY writes:

When we first moved to the US in 2000, we lived in a cramped apartment with new people and inflatable furniture. My mom felt horrible for moving us into the Connecticut winter and away from our families, and didn’’t know how to cheer me up. With the little money that she was able to save for herself, she bought me a pink dress that made me feel like a princess. I still remember the details on the collar. Since then, she has made every effort to make sure I continue to feel like a princess. Now, I’m headed to law school with a full tuition scholarship;   proudly wearing the crown my Queen ensures I deserve.

Cristian from Florida writes:

My mother was a civil lawyer in Colombia before we moved to the us. When I was 6 she made the decision to move to the United States to give myself and my sister a better life. She left behind a career, the majority of her family and friends. She gave it all up to give me a better life. My mother is a hardworking woman now and forever and she loves her children. I can’t thank her enough for everything she did.

Daisy from Colorado writes:

My name is Daisy and the person that I admire the most is my mom, Victoria. My mom pushes me to be the best person that I can be and she has set the example by being an extraordinary person. I think this can be said for any immigrant mother because they come to a country where they don’t know the language, don’t know anyone and succeed even though they have to live in the shadows.

My mom was deported 6 years ago.

She has missed out on so many important moments in our lives. My sister and I graduated from college and she wasn’t able to be there. My two younger brothers graduated from high school she missed that as well. We lost our home of 13 years. There are so many other important moments in life that she wasn’t able to be present because of these laws. If DAPA and DACA+ were to pass she would be able to be present for my brother’s college graduation. It was her dream for all four of her children to graduate from college. It was a dream that was ripped apart due to deportation. But through this laws it can become true and stop this from happening to other families.  

Amelia from Ohio writes:

To the many mothers who have struggled and sacrificed so much for their children to have the US American dream.  My heart goes out to all the mothers; many who went years, years without seeing with their mother, father, siblings. Not being with their loved ones at the time of their death.  

Ilene from Illinois writes:

I am not Immigrant Mother but I know mothers who are. Many are in Detention probably facing Deportation, The only Crime they have committed is seeking a better life for their children. I Stand in Solidarity for immigrant mothers across this nation and hope and pray that their hopes and Dreams for their Families will be heard.

Andrea from California writes:

In a country foreign to home. An 8 month old baby on one hand, dreams on another. A husband by her side. Mi mami has been an undocumented immigrant in this country for 22 years now. Mi mami has worked graveyard shifts at fast food restaurants, long hours at department stores,  and has had to endure cold conditions as a factory worker.

Mi mami has always told me \estudia y preparate por que no quiero verte trabajar con tus manos como yo. Buscate un trabajo que te haga trabajar con tu mente.”

Mi mami worked hard. Really hard. Mi mami is now a cosmetic chemist and makes the makeup that your daughter might be putting on at this very moment.

But – that doesn’t mean her fears have dissipated. Fear of deportation still haunts her. Fear of losing what she’s worked so hard for. Fear of never fully being able to make the amount of money she would make if she had that one piece of paper many take for granted.

However – mi mami still holds on to the American Dream.