‘My mom crossed the border, so I could cross the stage’: Family details ‘inspiring’ immigration challenges

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“Growing up, I was never aware of whether or not my mom was a United States Citizen until we traveled to New Mexico and I saw her give the Border Patrol Agents her green card.

Sophia Janette Balderrama and Lidia Balderrama

My mom was the parent who put her kids first. She would do anything for us and figured out a way to come to my softball games no matter how long, the weather or what was going on at work. I always looked forward to my games, so I could look up and see my #1 fan up there cheering me on and taking pictures of me playing. After games, she would always make sure to talk me through a rough loss or hype me up when I had a good game. Being able to have that support, was something that I will always treasure forever and think of.

My mother came to this country undocumented the day after her first birthday, with no clue where she was headed or what laws were being broken. She wasn’t aware of her undocumented status until she was older and applying for her green card. A lot of times, my grandmother struggled to get food on the table, but she did it and supported her family without the help of any government funding. Luckily my mother became a United States Citizen on July 22, 2011.

I remember her studying in the car for her U.S. Citizenship test and her making sure she knew every question. When she passed her test, she was incredibly happy and the car ride to the ceremony was very exciting for my family. This is all she ever wanted and now she was able to feel what she had been waiting for the longest time. We decided to take a picture of her by the mini Statue of Liberty to represent a famous symbol of the United States of America.

Sophia Janette Balderrama and Lidia Balderrama

Her struggle is something I will always be proud of and never be ashamed of. My mom struggled to finish college when she got married and had my older brother, Mario Balderrama. She put the family in front of her education without any complaints. When I was born, she tried again and I remember her taking me to tee-ball practice while she would sit in the stands studying for her exams. Unfortunately, as much as she wanted it, she couldn’t get to it until my brother and I were older where she knew she would be able to focus on time for herself.

Sophia Janette Balderrama and Lidia Balderrama

My dad, brother and I all knew how much she valued a college education and how much she wanted to feel the accomplishment of doing this. Finally, she was able to do it. After 27 years, she completed something she promised herself she would do and that was to earn her degree in Health Promotions despite having a family and a well-paying job.

Sophia Janette Balderrama and Lidia Balderrama

One night, I was looking at graduation cap ideas and thought of a way to honor my mom. I finally planned on doing, ‘My mom crossed the border, so I could cross the stage,’ and showed her one afternoon while we were having dinner. Tears swelled in her eyes and in my mind, I knew I had to do it. There’s been times where I feel like I’m not good enough for my major or smart enough to make it through law school. Whenever I try to put myself down, my mom makes sure to bring me back up. She tells me of how she never thought she’d get a college degree, but she did it. She holds such high goals, that I know I need to succeed. I know that in my heart, I need to do this not only for myself, but also relatives in Mexico fighting for a chance to live. My mom not only inspired me, but she is inspiring our family and others who want the same life she set for herself.

As her graduation got closer, my mom was deciding on ideas for her graduation cap and I was scrolling through Pinterest and found, ‘Ask me for my papers and I will show you my Bachelor’s.’ We both were very nervous about putting our story on a simple graduation cap but realized this was the best way to influence others to never be ashamed of who they are, their struggles and the past.

On May 10th, I posted a tweet that ended up going viral with almost 40,000 likes which brought other Mexican-Americans, DACA students and young adults who shared their stories and positivity with me.

My Mom and I ask for others dreaming of the day they can enter this country and live ‘The American Dream’ to never let a border, wall, or people stop them. We are all in this together to uplift each other’s goals and achievements. No matter how long it takes, marital status, how many kids you have, age, where you live or if you have a full-time job; you are able to earn a college diploma and much more.

The bond and relationship my Mom and I have is something I am so thankful for. She supports me and I support her. She doesn’t let me settle for less and I don’t let her either. Together, we know each other’s power and potential. She has seen me at my very worst and knows exactly how to help me grow throughout my obstacles and mistakes. I am so proud that we have the relationship we do, because without it; I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am now.

Sophia Janette Balderrama and Lidia Balderrama

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sophia Janette Balderrama, 18, and Lidia Balderrama, 45, of  El Paso, Texas. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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