My name is Eloisa. I am from Sonora, Mexico.
The first time I came to the US when I was seventeen. I came as a student to learn English without having documents. I was studying English for about six months and then I went back to Mexico because I would cry for my mother every day. Since I lived at the border, it wasn’t difficult to get a visa to come.
When I was here in the US, the visa ended and then I stayed. I had not thought of my story before, I’ve always been focused on the stories of other people. It was always other people’s stories and I think I forgot about my own story.
When I stayed in the US and didn’t go back to Mexico, one of the difficult stories that I remember was that I was looking for a job. I realized that I couldn’t pick a job if I didn’t have documents. At that time, I went to ask for a job as a waitress at a restaurant. I was 17. And when they gave me the job, they said this is your uniform and you need to come the days that they gave you.
When I went in to work, I realized that it was a restaurant that had two sections. The guy said you are not going to work in this section; you are going to work in the section across the door. I was little. I was only 17. I wasn’t mature enough to know or understand it. I didn’t have any concept of what was happening. And so, I started working on the other side. I don’t remember everything, but I don’t have all the memories of that place. I don’t even remember how long I stayed working there. And then I figured it out. I realized that it was a place for adults. That it was like a bar or something like that for adults.
One night, I didn’t have someone to pick me up to take me home from work. And then I realized that one of the people there was a neighbor. He was about 35 years old and I asked for a ride. I felt blessed at that moment because I saw someone that I k I got in the car and the guy locked the door. I didn’t even know how to open the automatic lock. The guy took the freeway. I just remember that the car was by the beach and all I remember is that he said to take off my clothes.
I started praying what my mother taught me, out loud with my hands protecting me. I put my hands on my chest protecting me. He returned me back to a park around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. He said, “Get out and forgive me.”
I think that that event marked my life. I think it’s that event that made me feel like I wanted to help people and protect children. I realized that if you didn’t have the documents, you didn’t have open doors. But you still can make change happen.
That’s how the story started for me. I started to get involved in schools with my children and my sibling. I’ve been working here and been involved in my community for 17 years. I’ve not seen a difference between having papers and not having papers if you want to make a change in your community. I’ve realized that once you want to help, once you want to make a change where you live, it doesn’t matter if you have papers or not. It’s important, but it’s not everything.
I’ve been doing this job for a long time. The name that they’ve given me is Community Leader, Promoter, and Community Organizer. The work I do I don’t see it as a job. I look at the needs of people. I connect them to the resources and then I help guide them. My job is to connect with people from their greatness. Every woman and immigrant, whatever reason they came here, can make a difference if we are united because I’ve seen it with all these women.
In this group, there’s people that have documents and people that don’t have documents yet. I don’t like to use the word illegal because to me it’s a negative word. I don’t think that anyone comes with the intention of harming this country. I think we start forming our intention as we keep walking in life. That’s why I like to work with children. I think that all of us can make a change if we do it together.
We may be a very small town, but we’ve been working for years now with families. We’ve seen the changes with the families as we grow. And I believe in the power of a butterfly. Even with those small wings that they have with their own movement, flapping of the wings, they still make a lot of change. All the children that we’ve been supporting for all these years, whether they went to college and already graduated or decided not to go to college, they all are contributing to our community and they all came out of this.
I’ve gotten my documents to become a permanent resident through my husband. I think I’m one of those people that kind of are defensive or resistant to applying for citizenship. I feel that having those documents are necessary to be successful. I could have had the documents from the time I got married, but I decided not to. I wanted to continue to use my passport, my visa, because it was the way I felt connected to Mexico. I did that for ten years before I started my process to get a permanent residency.
I’m also resisting citizenship right now. The only person that has made me want to get citizenship is Donald Trump. I always thought that I didn’t need it. But Donald Trump taught me that I needed to have it, and I need to help people who don’t have opportunities like I do. I know I’m not the only one. I think there are many of us who think that way. Many of us are looking at this opportunity to get our citizenship not so much for our own sake, but to help the others who are more impacted by those policies.
One of the things I can say is I think the biggest difference I’ve made is through my children. Even though we’re immigrants, my children are very involved in politics and educating themselves on who the candidates are. I’ve realized that I maintained Mexican culture very strongly. I think the biggest contribution I’ve made is to create this weaving of two cultures and two worlds. No matter what the representatives may say against it, I think my biggest contribution is the embracing of two cultures and passing it on to the children.
When you guide your children to love and be proud of your culture, and when you teach your children how to love this country at the same time, they have a compassionate heart. So, these children are the women and men who can make a difference because they are able to hold both things. The community center is where we’re working the hardest so that all these children make the changes we need to see in the world.