by Liliana Campos
Dear Immigration Officer,
I would like to tell you about a dream I had last night. It was a dream about a lovely wedding and a couple. The young woman's hair was thin and dark—dark like the night, dark as a dream. The waving motion of her hair was crisp and mesmerizing. Her eyes transparent, gentle, quiet and naïve. Her eyes reflected an indescribable happiness that only she knew; through them she was letting the entire world know that something was ahead—something great. The groom opened his eyes to look at the young, fragile woman walking toward him. He recognized her and promised to love and protect her.
The tranquility of the wedding, distinguished by the promises of love and respect, quickly vanished as the man and woman at the altar let go of each other's hands to wipe their tears away. They were not tears of joy. His light eyes carried a mysterious past that would unfold his innermost feelings of pain and confusion. In the depths of his light eyes, beneath the obscurity of all that remained dark and unknown to their children, he was pleading for forgiveness and letting her know he loved her. Her eyes transparent, gentle, quiet and in love remained, but they reflected pain and freedom. The pain of letting go of each other's hand to wipe away the rolling tears that caressed her cheek.
I woke up suddenly to a shining light as it entered a corner of my bedroom to touch my face. I was dreading the sun of another day but hurried to the shower anyway. My mind was lost in the warmth and effluence of the water and the overflow of questions about this dream, questioning why.... why was I the woman at the altar?
My mother talks about dreams as if they are messages from God or warnings of some event to come. She says that dreams have meanings, but I just listen and smile politely. I didn't have time to tell my mom about my dream, but I imagine telling her would awaken the young, fragile and naive glow in her eyes. She would recognize the man at her altar and plead for my forgiveness underneath all that is unsaid. She would hear the wedding bells, the reminders of the violence and the love she once knew.
The dream still lingered when the day rested at its highest peak, the clock ticking like the sun that sheds light into our dreams. The phone rang. It took less than a minute to receive a message I would not allow myself to even imagine: “Congratulations, your u-visa was approved.” The phone went mute. I turned to the corner of my bedroom that lets in a layer of sun, and I lost my breath. My heart raced faster than the “thank you” that came out of my mouth and suddenly I woke up from the DREAM, the DREAM that millions of undocumented students fight for every day as we open our eyes to a reality that is unjust and painful, and yet motivates us to keep striving. I felt a tear roll down my cheek, caressing every single one of the memories that brought me to this moment.
Some people call us DREAMers, others undocumented students or immigrants, but I think of us as survivors of a system. I know stories of people crossing borders and holding down fortresses from Zion to Babylon. This is but one dream and one story. We are not the same but we are one. We are one people fighting for freedom, fighting for education, fighting for our life.
So I ask you on this day, Immigration Officer, a single day which may be one of your many days at work, looking at one of many letters on your desk: What happens next? How do I tell my brothers and sisters that I'm still here in pain and in struggle with them? How do I tell them that I want to make sure you hear our fight? What do I say to all the remaining stories and dreams out there that have not met your desk nor your eyes but are written and spoken around your city and your country? How do I look at them and tell them that my story begins here, or does it? Why do I feel different today, and are these dreams filled with joy or pain? What happens to the other 800,000 stories that remain untold?
Immigration Officer, listen—can you hear them?—those hundreds and thousands of stories being lived; those hundreds and thousands of voices, they are speaking. Can you hear them?