José Ángel N. is an undocumented immigrant who lives in Chicago. In his memoir Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant, José Ángel writes of his own journey from Mexico to find a new life in America.
The crisis of thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at the Texas border has again brought the issue of undocumented immigrants to the political forefront (and to tv and radio talk shows). However, much of the public debate has been conducted by elected officials and pundits and very few of the voices heard have been from the undocumented individuals who will be most affected by immigration reform.
Dear President Obama,
I know you will probably never read this letter. But, as a good Mexican, I’ve been taught to expect disappointment in advance, so there is no harm in trying.
My name is José Ángel N., and I am an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. I have lived in Chicago most of my life, and the night you were elected U.S. President I watched with my face pressed against a chain-link fence as you delivered an impassioned speech at Grant Park.
I come from Guadalajara, a city that you visited during your first official trip to Mexico as President. What did you think of my city, by the way? I have not been home in two long decades, so your memory of it is more current than mine.
Like most people, I came to the United States because I heard that people here had a chance to start over. Actually, I didn’t hear that. The news of the riches of our neighbor to the north reached me in the form of shiny cars, designer clothes, flashy shoes, and impressive electronic gadgets that people in my neighborhood brought back with them when they returned from the United States. My knowledge of America was strictly empirical. That was not, incidentally, a word I knew when I first left Mexico at 19 years of age. I learned it first in English here in Chicago when I was almost 30 years old, during my freshman year in college. And only years later did I learn its Spanish equivalent, empírico, with its ostentatious accent mark on the second syllable, which gives the word a nice rounded sound, like a bubble that first bursts in your mouth and then closes gently. . . .
Read the rest of the letter here: An Open Letter to President Obama