Below is a bio followed by a story written by Lilliana for the website “Things I’ll Never Say” – created by “Dreamers” (undocumented young people who came to the U.S. with their parents and would be eligible for the Dream Act if it ever becomes law) at the organization Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) in San Francisco.
Liliana Campos is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach where she received a B.A in Psychology. She believes her leadership work began when she immigrated to the U.S. with her family at the age of seven and since then has been driven to strive in school, at home and in her community. Since 2009, Liliana has been a Health Educator and Program Coordinator at the Center for Youth in Redwood City, where she has led a Young Latina Women’s Health Group, develops and implements Health Education sessions for 10th-12th graders, co-facilitates a Peer Education Program, and coordinates an Alternative to Suspension Program. Liliana has worked closely with the Immigrant Youth Action Team (IYAT) in Redwood City to outreach and educate the community about struggles of hard-working immigrant youth by hosting annual fundraising events to support Sequoia High School’s Dream Club members and help students voice their stories. She has mentored and worked with undocumented students enrolled in the Health Careers Academy at Sequoia High School. In 2011, she was a scholarship recipient of the first national internship program of the UCLA Labor Center and interned at Legal Aid Society of San Mateo, where she helped coordinate a new project called LIBRE (Linking Immigrants to Benefits, Resources, and Education). She is currently preparing to enroll in graduate school to pursue her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. Her biggest accomplishment thus far has been being able to inspire and mentor her three brothers, all of whom are enrolled in college.
WALK OF LIFE
My feet cringe with every step I take as I walk into my house. My bedroom does not have walls but it’s calming to know I at least have a bed today. The cold, lonely, strange fridge screams for a fresh gallon of milk while the calming, burning stove heats up the usual pot of beans. The fridge shows brown and yellow streaks of age, and as it opens its mouth I see rotting tomatoes, smell a hint of a half-cut raw onion. The fridge is clean but also forgotten. Sitting face to face with the fridge is the stove, busy heating its pot of beans.
“It’s almost the end of the month,” I think to myself.
I grab the blue pen lost in my bag with one hand and Hope and Determination by the other and walk into reality. I hope I can buy more than the usual bag of rice and beans next month, maybe feed our forgotten fridge some fresh vegetables, but the last page on the application at the local restaurant asks if I consent to an additional background check. The request is vague and I’m confused. All that is real for a moment is the smell of the ink on my hand, the hint of a shredded application and the pronounced feeling of emptiness. My body, on the other hand, recognizes the request and my heart speeds up, my breath gets louder and the pen slips away. “You mean E-verify?” My heart races. I want to run. I check the box. I look around and see back of the manager’s ironed shirt. He turns around, sensing my unspoken readiness and makes his way to where I sit. He quickly glances at the paper and says “ I look forward to looking over your application.” I shake his hand, thank him with a smile, and kindly walk out. I will never be employed at that restaurant. I’m drenched in humiliation, confusion, frustration, determination and hunger.
The fridge screams and the pot of beans rests. I receive a call from the hiring manager at the local restaurant to offer me a serving position. Thank you Mr. General Manager, but I don’t want to be deported, is what I want to say when I actually reply, “Thank you so much for the opportunity, but after careful consideration, I will not be able to commit to the position at this time.” My cold, empty hands go to my head and I find myself screaming emptiness with the fridge.
I walk to the next city, submit my resume, fill out another application and get hired at the next local restaurant. The manager this time is a slim, blonde petite woman. She walks toward me and from a distance I can already taste in big black, bold letters, “E-verify, Liliana Campos.” What would she think if she knew the truth? What would she read underneath my “perfect” English accent? Would she be angry with me for invading her territory? Would I get hired if she looked more like me—dark hair and brown skin? She approaches. My throat closes up, my stomach shrinks, my heart races and my saliva dries up. I’m ready to run. “There must have been a problem with the system. Don’t worry, it happens all the time. Just go ahead and have social security services sign off this paper and you can start tomorrow,” she says. I shake her soft, light skinned hand, smile, and without hesitation say, “Thank you so much. I’ll make sure to follow up with SSS and get this paper signed off.” Her smile is genuine, almost motherly. Three days later I will call. Thank you Ms. General Manager, but I don’t want to be deported, is what I will want to say when I reply, “Thank you so much for the opportunity but after careful consideration, I will not be able to commit to the position at this time.”
Do I walk to the next three cities and get hired for the third time today? I stop. I take a deep breath. I close my eyes. I see my college degree sitting on top of pile of books. I can hear the fridge opening its mouth screaming with all its emptiness and rotting tomatoes, but all of a sudden from a mile away I can smell strive, so I begin to walk north. I smell the pot of beans warming up tonight’s dinner and realize I have something to eat tonight. I think about my hunger for a better tomorrow. I think about the fridge screaming for a better tomorrow, and I thank the pot of beans for not failing me today so I can continue to battle my way through. I once left my starving country and crossed a border because I was hungry. With hunger for a better tomorrow, I crossed that stage to receive my college degree, and today I will cross because I’m here to strive.
story was written for “Things I’ll Never Say”