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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Graduate P Shaylee Ackerman (10) pitches during Texas A&Ms game against Valpo on Feb. 10, 2024 at Davis Diamond.
Holding down the house
February 22, 2024
Graduate P Shaylee Ackerman (10) pitches during Texas A&Ms game against Valpo on Feb. 10, 2024 at Davis Diamond.
Holding down the house
February 22, 2024

Undocumented immigrants share their story

In hopes of weighing in on the issue of immigration reform, Jose Zelaya, a philosophy doctoral candidate at Texas A&M, and his mother shared their personal stories as undocumented immigrants from San Pedro Sula, Honduras-one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Zelaya and his mother spoke with reporters through conference call Thursday afternoon. Zelaya says his inspiration to strive for success comes from his mother. With Mother’s Day on Sunday, Zelaya said they both wanted to send out a message about stopping the deportation of undocumented citizens in order to avoid the separation of families within the United States.
While Zelaya traces many of his successes in life to his time in the U.S. and at A&M, Zelaya said his story starts in Honduras.
“My story begins in Honduras in San Pedro Sula, which is considered the most dangerous city on Earth,” Zelaya said. “That’s where I was raised, that’s where I was born.”
Zelaya said during his time growing up in Honduras, he witnessed many tragic events. His father beat his mother in private and in public, his brother died because his family was unable to take him to a hospital, and Hurricane Mitch stripped the family of most of their belongings in 1998.
“My mother made the decision to run away from Honduras and come to the United States,” Zelaya said. “She ran away with my little sister, escaping from my father, and I stayed behind.”
Following his mother’s departure, Zelaya said he was shot twice in the arms while playing soccer in San Pedro Sula one day. After that incident, 14-year-old Zelaya made the decision to run away and come to the United States to find his mother. He said living in a bad environment like the one he grew up in is a leading reason people immigrate to the United States.
“It’s a horrible situation,” Zelaya said. “And that’s kind of a reason why people migrate to the United States without proper documentation, because the situations in that country are very difficult.”
Zelaya’s mother, Ms. Rivera, did not give to her first name during the conference call to avoid facing legal repercussions as an undocumented immigrant and spoke in Spanish with Zelaya translating. Reflecting on her experiences and that of other undocumented immigrants, Ms. Rivera called for the U.S. Congress to take action on immigration reform.
Noting that Mother’s Day is Sunday, Ms. Rivera stressed the fact that deported mothers are forced to leave their families behind and travel to potentially dangerous countries. She said in her own experience, her children’s well-being came before documentation.
“Like a mother, what I did was try to love my children,” Rivera said. “I didn’t realize how hard it would be to make it the United States. I didn’t care about papers, what I wanted was to save my children’s lives.”
From one woman to another, Ms. Rivera also called on Michelle Obama to help make immigration reform possible so that families can stay together.
“As a mother, I call upon the first lady of the United States to put herself in the shoes of undocumented mothers, to try to feel, how it feels to have your children deported, to have your husband deported, to be separated from your family,” Rivera said. “And that she, as a mother, can make immigration reform possible which would lead to the stopping of the violence, the messy violence, so that children can be raised by their family.”
Zelaya said in his time in the U.S., he faced “trash talk” from people who said he would not make it because he was an ESL student and because A&M was a “rich school.” Zelaya said he now feels inspired to share his story with organizations and groups, because he wants others to know they can succeed regardless of where they are from. In short, Zelaya said he wants to let others know that the put-downs he and other immigrants face are not indicative of their future.
Among other advantages to living in the U.S., Zelaya said he gained the freedom to walk down the street and know that he’ll be okay. Building on his experience, Zelaya said he advocates for immigration reform because the fear of being separated from one’s family is an unnecessary fear.
“I’m a really proud American, but I’m also an undocumented American,” Zelaya said.

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