Mosaic Community Essays

—Osiris Grafals

The Healing Journey

 This week’s essay is by Osiris Grafals. She writes about coming to the U.S. illegally when she was a child and the hardships she faced because of being undocumented. 

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My name is Osiris Grafals. I am from Gualan Zacapa, Guatemala.

I came to the United States in 1991 when I was 7. Before that, I had been in Guatemala and raised by my grandfather and aunt. My parents came to the U.S. chasing “The American Dream.” My mother decided to move us to the United States illegally. I was excited yet sad leaving everything that I knew including  my aunt and grandpa. This is something I will never forget. 

Coming illegally was and is dangerous, you can get raped, lost or killed.  My uncle decided to accompany us and protect us. I remember being inside a large truck with 150 people inside with no windows and 2 plastic containers to go to the bathroom in. Our food consisted of oranges. 

I thought it was an adventure, but in reality I was afraid and it has traumatized me. We ended up making it to Texas and from there we took a plane that brought us to  Rhode Island.  When I started school I had to repeat  4th grade because I didn’t speak English very well. I had a difficult time understanding what was going on in class and with my homework. It was devastating to me.

In Guatemala, I was always the abanderada; the person who carries the Guatemalan flag in events to signify that I was an A student. Having poor grades emotionally affected me. Luckily, I had an amazing ESL teacher that taught me so much. She was such a lovely person and cared for us immigrants. You could tell she loved her job. I never felt judged as being someone coming from another country, speaking a different language, and having a different culture. I will never forget her. 

In high school I did pretty well, but then I needed to start thinking of college and that was impossible  being an “illegal alien;” no financial support or anything of that nature. Growing up being an immigrant has always been an issue for me, it’s like having a dark shadow always following me. Trying to get my license, going to school, getting a job, and health insurance. It makes me feel judged, like I am not a human being. The label says it is all: Illegal Alien; 

I hate this label.

After high school I married my high school sweetheart and he always saw my struggles. We have been married for 18 years now and have 3 beautiful daughters and guess what?The shadow still follows me. I became a christian and God has opened up opportunities for me and has given me grace and patience through this journey.

 I have been in the United States for  29 years and I am in the DACA program. The Dreamers. Through this I have been able to work by obtaining a license. But every 4 years I have to renew it and pay a decent amount of money for it. I have done research to become legal and not just be a dreamer. In order to do this, I need to leave the country. Leaving my daughters and  family would be difficult. Knowing how I felt when my parents left and the effect it had, I don’t want to do that to my children.. 

 I know one day God will answer my prayer to become legal and a citizen. I am aware I broke the law coming illegally, but I was just a child that did what her parents said.. I guess searching for a dream comes with many struggles, emotional issues and trauma. To this day I cry every time I talk about my travels and coming to America. 

As a Christian I stay hopeful and graceful, especially towards those that have so much hate for immigrants and” illegal aliens.” Please stop calling us illegal aliens. I am a human being just like you. 

Now, I am getting my bachelor degree in organizational leadership and change through College Unbound. They have been such a blessing to me. Especially in supporting me with funds as I can not get financial aid because of my legal status. I can’t wait to graduate and support others that are in the same situation as I am. One day my dream will come true. In the meantime I will continue to support and advocate for others just like me.

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