Dear Mr. Villaraigosa,
My name is Ana Perez and I was present during your meeting at Laguna Beach on September 13, 2017. Thank you so much for giving me the chance to share my story and giving me support during that meeting.
I can for sure say that moving to California has been the toughest but also the best experience in my life. I came from Tecate, a city in Baja California, and my family and I would make enough money to pass day by day. We had to limit ourselves from many things and could not buy anything that was not absolutely necessary because there just wasn’t enough money. Moving to California was not an easy experience. I, at age 9 and in fourth grade, did not know anything of the English language other than ‘Hi.’
I was enrolled in a school where only 2 girls knew Spanish and they would refuse to help me during class and with homework. I struggled with homework every night and with the help of my uncle and aunt I was able to finish it. Going to school became a nightmare where as in my old school I was the top student. I would cry myself to sleep every night and begged my mom to move back. My parents were also struggling with the language, but had to put up a mask of being alright just to encourage me.
After seeing my constant struggle, my aunt advised my parents to move to Dana Point and enroll me in another school, Richard Henry Dana Elementary School. We moved to an apartment and rented a single room for all four of us. Even with the tough living arrangement I loved the new atmosphere. Our principal, Dr. Weber, knew every student’s name, even mine, knew their parents and knew Spanish. He, even now, is a person I hold very important to me by how he was able to connect with all the students and parents. He was someone who encouraged me to keep going because nothing was impossible. In this school, many more kids spoke Spanish and I was able to make friends. However, the girl assigned to help me wouldn’t talk to me, so sometimes I would hide crying in class because I did not want anyone to know. I went to extra classes with other kids that did not know English or needed extra help. There, I met a friend that was going through the same thing as me I still talk to today. For homework, math was excellent for me since I had already gone over what we were going through that year and it was my favorite subject. For English I would translate the words to Spanish and make sentences. That was how I began to learn more vocabulary.
Slowly I watched and heard conversations and by fifth grade was able to understand English, but was afraid to speak it because of my accent. Throughout that year I focused on speaking more and my friends encouraged me as well. Within two years, I knew enough English to have conversations without being shy. I was placed in advanced English classes in Middle School and High School. I was the top student in my math classes and received a Geometry award in High School for receiving 102% as my final grade in the class. I continued with advanced classes and my school career was back to how it had been in Tecate. I was finally confident in myself again.
What I did not know and only found out years after was the struggle my family were going through. My sister was three when we moved, so she picked up the language quickly. Unfortunately, her Spanish worsened since she was basically raised in California. She is able to understand most but struggles speaking and that created barriers with the rest of our Spanish speaking family. My dad was having trouble finding work as a construction worker. He knew more English than my mom and I, but was terribly shy when asking for work. My mom, being the headstrong person she is, would scold him and push him to ask. He was able to get various constriction jobs and got out of his shell. My mom, however, was the one that struggled the most. She began to work as a cleaning lady, but the people in charge were jerks that treated those under them like trash. The guy would constantly put the cleaning ladies down by calling them names and saying that they would never be anything more than the low lives they were at the moment and the same attitude was received from his wife and work partner. They were both Hispanic yet they treated their own race that poorly. My mother didn’t see a way out of it since that was the only job she could find and all the barriers were against her. She didn’t know how to speak English or drive and all her options closed on her.
My mom started attending English classes for grown ups every night after work and my dad and I would also teach her what we knew. Little by little she learned as well and after two years of enduring that harsh treatment she was able to find another job. Right now, she is the confident lady she was and always scolds me whenever I face a problem and feel like giving up. Her employers are always telling me that I should be proud of having such a great mom and that she’s funny and very talkative. I am very proud of my family and myself for getting to where we are now. My little sister is doing great in school with a 4.0 graduation GPA in Marco Forster Middle School and many awards and my parents are thriving in their work.
When it was announced that undocumented young people were going to be given a permit to work and be in the United States, my parents immediately jumped on the opportunity and helped me apply. I was excited to be able to work and help them financially and to be given a chance to be in the United States. I enrolled in Saddleback Community College with a major in Computer Science which later changed to Architecture. I currently go to school and work in retail and as a math tutor/ babysitter. I pictured my future working in a firm and maybe later as a self employed architect and make my family proud.
After the current DACA news, all my plans for the future seemed distant again. I’m not sure what we’ll do if it is cancelled since I would not be able to work or reside in the United States. Going back to Tecate sounds very intimidating because we would be forced to start over, especially my little sister. I don’t really see a future in going back since the financial situation over there has worsened since we left and that’s terrifying. I hope and pray that everything turns out alright and that all of us fighting for this right succeed in doing something. I and many others are only here to work hard and become something important for our families and ourselves, not to hurt this country.
Thank you so much for your time and the opportunity to share my family’s and my story.
Ana Perez

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