The Pandemic Made Things Worse For My Immigrant Family

A personal reflection from KIPP Texas – Houston alum and 2020 KIPPtern Jackie Arroyo.

Jackie Arroya and her mom
Jackie and her mom

By: Jackie Arroyo, KIPP Texas – Houston alum, 2020 KIPPtern, Bryn Mawr College

Imagine yourself living in the shadows of everyday life with fear of being taken away, fear of losing your family, fear of being told you don’t belong. Luckily for many American citizens, we don’t have to carry those fears every day, or do we? When you see me, you see a bright, browned skinned girl with long indigenous black hair and beaming dark brown eyes. On the outside, I am like many immigrants, foreign, diverse, unique. The only difference between them and me is that I hold the title of being an American Citizen. So does that mean I don’t carry the fears that I mentioned before? Wrong.

I carry those horrors, and I wear them every day, just like them. Yes, they are not the same, but they are very similar. I am one of the only citizen children my parents have. I am “ideally” the key to the citizenship papers for my family, right? Wrong. As so many laws change with time, we continue to worry about having another tomorrow. My parents crossed the border with nothing physical in their hands but hope for a better tomorrow for them and their children. In the eyes of the government, that is the protocol for immediate deportation due to illegal entry with no proper jurisdiction. How can you expect a family to live through gang violence, death, and low economic wages while raising their child at the same time? If you don’t want those circumstances for yourself, why desire it for another family? Because of my parents’ actions for wanting the American dream that many talk about, I am unable to grant them citizenship unless I enlist for the military. So, for now, we live with the anxiety of thinking every day is our last together.

Things have shifted downward since the start of COVID-19. I lost all four jobs at college, which helped pay for rent and bills; my mother lost many of the clients she cleans for, so we are facing the possibility of eviction and there is no guarantee we will have enough money for our daily necessities. As a mixed-status family, we don’t get social security, retirement, and stimulus checks benefits. We have to live off paycheck to paycheck to survive with the bare minimum. We didn’t have internet access at home, so my sister and I could not do our schoolwork. Low-income families were affected, but immigrant households were affected more.

Immigrants have been essential to this country for centuries, but at the same time, they’re continuously denied the only thing we ever plead for, citizenship. Immigrants carry all their burden on their shoulders, and you know what else they carry on their shoulders? The weight of this unfair country.  We have to work for what we want, pay our taxes like every American, and receive nothing in return.

Regardless of all the unfair acts that occur to families like me, we still manage to persevere through the unjust and inequitable system. We don’t give up because we want to work for change. Most importantly we don’t settle for the world as it is, we work for the world as it should be. Being the daughter of two undocumented Mexican immigrants, I know that my identity rests solely and firmly on them. We have managed to survive fight for others like us so that our  sons and daughters don’t have to and can live without fear.

Jackie Arroya and her family
Jackie and her family