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My Undocumented Life

My mother, sister and I were asleep one day when suddenly we heard someone pounding at our door. This was shortly after 9/11. A voice shouted, “Police, open the door!” My mom and I woke up frightened. We didn’t know what was happening. We opened the door of our South West Side Chicago apartment in Little Village. Two ICE officers barged in without asking and pushed my mom and me out of the way. Then they began raiding our home.

The two ICE officers quickly moved to the back room. They went from room to room shuffling things around calling out my dad’s name. Luckily, my dad wasn’t home. He was at work and we didn’t know my dad’s work address. The two men interrogated us regarding his job. I remember that at school we talked about what to do if the police came to your home, and about the things they could do, and the things they couldn’t. I asked them for a warrant. They didn’t have one. I was an 11-year-old child who could barely speak English. But, I mustered the courage to tell them to leave. They eventually did.

I was shocked. After what happened, my family and I were so traumatized that we decided to move out of the apartment — a few blocks away. I knew that at any moment, ICE could walk into my home — the only place I have ever felt safe and take away my family, even me.  So ever since, it was important for me to keep up with immigration policy and learn about my rights, especially when it came to ICE.

I didn’t know I was undocumented until that day. I was no longer like all my friends but it wasn’t until I was pursuing my Bachelor’s degree that I felt it. All of my friends were going to a job fair and invited me, but because I didn’t have a social security number I couldn’t go. There were sleepless nights and a constant hustle of working to pay out of pocket for a new semester and paying off the previous one before starting a new one.

I felt a huge responsibility to help my family — especially my mom who’s struggled with depression and a bad separation from my dad. Not being able to work for a long time, she depended on my 20 hours per week paycheck.

My tuition went up and I found it hard to finish school, support my mother, and make sure we had food. I took a two-year break from school to save up more. It took me seven years to finish college, but I did it. I graduated in December of 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Things were beginning to get better. After I applied for DACA, many of the doors that were closed for me, started to open. I was able to find a job in my field of study. I’m in search of new opportunities. But now, with the new administration, I feel the uncertainty again. I do not know what my future as an undocumented immigrant looks like. At times it becomes frustrating. Regardless, I do not give up.

Magdalena Gonzalez

When Magdalena is not working she enjoys traveling and discovering the hidden gems of the Chicago. She works as a marketing consultant and hold the title of chair for Latinas on the Plaza, an organization committed to empowering women of color in the corporate world. Magdalena holds a Bachelors of Science with a concentration in marketing from Illinois Institute of Technology.