Inauguration day came to an end and the United States of America was in the hands of its first African-American leader, President Barack Hussein Obama, middle name and all. The nation had made history and I was lucky enough to witness the historic moment in my living room amongst my family and friends.
I wasn’t just one of those late-in-the-game Obama bandwagon types, I went all out during the campaign. I printed up my own version of an Obama Presidential shirt, collaborated on a 5’x3’ painting of Obama that my friends and I walked up and down the streets of downtown San Jose. “Bringing Obama to the People” is what we called it. I wanted people to feel the same hope that I felt when I heard or watched Obama deliver speeches or greet and meet people.
Both my mother and I were as excited for this monumental day as any other patriotic American was, if not more. My mom cried throughout the speech. We are not Americans, well not legally anyways. After 19 years of hard work and sacrifices we’ve endured to survive in this country, one would think this country would have accepted us and people like us in better regards.
Yet, President Obama’s victory makes you feel a part of this country nevertheless. From Obama’s speeches to the energy that everyday people have towards him, one can’t help but get wrapped up in the excitement, regardless of immigration status. However, no matter how much you feel like an American or how much you try to live your life as one, it all comes down to the facts, no gray areas when it comes to being undocumented in this country, it’s simply black or white, in or out. And most of the time we are out.
The fact of the matter is that I and millions of non-Americans living in the United States, unrecognized by the government and even some of it citizens, often go days blending ourselves into the ways and traditions of this country. At times, we even fool ourselves into believing that because we have so much love and admiration for the United States that we are legally a part of it.
Ironically, it is often the undocumented immigrant who recognizes the value of America the most, because it has sheltered us, fed us, given us the opportunities to become something in life. Most of all, it has given us the hope that through hard work and determination, any honest man or woman can make a better life for him- or herself.
But, sometimes all you get is the hope. When I first saw that the Obama campaign was offering a “Ticket to History,” a chance to witness President Obama’s inauguration, I was excited that 10 lucky people would be picked for this once a lifetime opportunity. Donate $5 or more and get a chance to win your ticket to witness the historic moment with your own eyes. However, the hope I had was short lived. As soon as I tried to apply, I saw it — a small box that if checked meant you are a legal U.S. citizen. Of course, I did not check it, and didn’t close the web page until after it all set in.
And set in it did. I had done a good job of fooling myself that I too could be a part of this new hope, but I came to realize that at this moment that dream was on hold. That small un-checked box was proof of it.
It was proof that no matter how much hope a person brings, how much change that person can deliver, it makes no difference if you are not one of those people that the change is meant for. Undocumented folks like my mother and I can’t legally call President Obama our president, nor can we say that we as “Americans” are thankful for this day. All for the same reason we couldn’t vote for him on November 4th, and for the same reason we will not be included in his million-plus jobs to rebuild the nation.
Regardless of the legality of it all, I have worked hard, stayed clear of any trouble and done my best to lead a good life. I have helped others as best I can, and that I feel is what being an “American” is all about.
Apart from the legality of my situation, I am still very proud of all that this country has done — huge change came and more is still to come. Some of that change, hopefully, will be around immigration. One of the wishes that I have is that Obama will take the hard working undocumented people into great consideration.
I am not expecting the gates to burst open, only for a just path to legalization.
So, in the end, it all comes back to hope. The hope that one day I too will have the honor of calling President Obama my president. Until that day arrives, all I can do is hope and wait.
“All human wisdom is summed up in two words – wait and hope.”
– Alexander Dumas, 1802-1870
Adrian Ramirez, 23, is a writer and artist for Silicon Valley De-Bug. His name has been changed because of his immigration status. Distributed by New America MediaPosted - Copyright © 2022 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.