Skip Navigation

My struggle for the American Dream

May, 2017

Keren Rodríguez

Keren Rodríguez

Keren Rodríguez

Keren Rodríguez

Previous Next

May 1, 2013

On a Tuesday night my parents and I left Grand Rapids, Mich., and joined the march for a comprehensive immigration reform that was held on April 10 in Washington, DC.  At first, I thought “for me, this would be a good trip to get away from the routine.” I currently live in Grand Rapids, where my father is the pastor of La Nueva Esperanza UMC.

On the bus, on my way to Washington, I met many people, and we got to know each other better. I had the opportunity to hear their personal stories about immigration. Their stories moved me so much, I felt a clump in my heart when I heard that many of this people, just as myself, were separated from their loved ones because of a broken immigration system. I realized that there were people who saw their own relatives die on the run crossing the border for a better future.  I asked myself,  “Why there are so many people with the same issues that I have for which I had suffered so much?”

With this on my mind, we arrived to the US Senate. The plan was to have a visit with the congressmen and tell our stories about immigration and how other communities, not only our Latino community, are hurting and were damaged because of deportations and the separation from their family members. After the meetings, we started to march towards the Capitol where the protest for an immigration reform was taking place. In the agenda, there were listed different performances, one of the most significant was from Olga Tañon, Puerto Rican singer and composer. Tañon also supports the immigration reform. After hearing many organizations give their speech, around 7 pm,  we rode the bus back to Grand Rapids.

A few days later, I received a call from the organization “Give me a Hand for a Second Chance,” they wanted me to have the opportunity to speak of my own personal experience on family separation. I had the chance to speak in front of  Congressmen, Reps. Raul Labrador and Justin Amash.

I was asked to talk about the Sibling Visa and how this will affect other people around the country. I was nervous at first, but later on when I talked about my own family separation and the fact that I haven’t been able to see my siblings for two years, it made me feel comfortable. It also made the Congressmen think about the reason why they were working for an Immigration reform.

As I spoke and explained that I wanted to share my American Dream with my sister Cesia and my brother Joel, both of them living in Costa Rica. After I shared my story with them and I had asked my question about the sibling’s visa, Congressman Raul Labrador answered me explaining that the sibling’s visa doesn’t come with the new comprehensive immigration reform. Congressman Amash looked right into my eyes, I could see he understood how difficult it was, not only for me, but for other 11 million of immigrants who suffer family separations.

At the end of the meeting I was asked to do an interview with the press and later one on the Spanish radio, as well as other media. I told them “I want to share the American dream with my brother and my sister .”

During the radio interview I was asked why I was getting involved with the immigration issue?  I said, “we have to fight because we cannot attend college, because we have no papers. We cannot become doctors, lawyers because we simply don’t have rights. The people who were there were glad to see us two of us representing the Latino youth.”

“I am just beginning to get involved. I went to Washington DC, and when I entered the senate I noticed there were no Hispanics. I saw many Anglos. I saw many Anglo women and men and I asked myself, Why don’t we have Latinos here? Why don’t we have a Latina woman and a Latino man who represents us in this community? I think it is time.  We are 20 million and we should  have a voice here.  This is the reason why we believe that the Republicans and Democrats are in contact with us now.”  I told the reporter on the radio when he asked me if I was involved before this rally.

I thanked congressman Labrador for the opportunity he gave us as youth to tell our stories. I have many friends who share the same story. I am not only fighting for my story but for theirs also. I have seen youth who attend High School and don’t want to graduate because they feel they have no future. It is not only about finishing High School, no, we have to fight for the future. For the future when we could become doctors, attend university, and who knows, maybe to be like Labrador who came from Puerto Rico and now is a congressman and it was this country who changed him and gave him the opportunity.

After I said that we need the youth to be more involved on this issue, during the radio interview the host asked me, what could I do or propose to do?  I told him that many young people are in this situation. In the strict sense of the word. I believe that we need to work with the coalitions represented here towards an immigration reform. I believe we all should not only attend high school and college, have friends at church, wherever you are involved, we should make a difference.  In other words, we should try to educate people and if necessary, tell our story, because we all have a story about how we arrived here. We need to educate the public because many people, honestly, don’t know about our stories, where we came from and more. We need to be strong. We are here to make a better future for this nation. We are here because we arrived and we have made this country our country. We want something better for ourselves

My plans for the future are to continue speaking and fight for the people who are less fortunate, those who don’t have a voice and are scared to express how they feel. I have been asked to work in different organizations and in different media.

As the Bible reads for sure “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for yet are all one in Christ Jesus Galatians 3:28”. We are all made equal and we are brother and sisters in the eyes of the Lord.