“American citizen” is what I always said as a child whenever we crossed the border, back in the day when you could cross the border between the U.S.A. and Mexico with just your word and not a passport. I was proud to be an American citizen, to live in a country where the running water didn’t disappear without notice while I was taking a shower. I was aware of all the things most American citizens take for granted.
My mother didn’t get to cross on her word alone, back then she had a green card and would show it. My mother was a resident alien. Many years later she became a U.S. citizen so that she could vote. I didn’t agree with how she was voting, but I was happy that after decades of making a life and raising two children in this country, she would be involved in the political process.
The border between the United States and Mexico has always been an arbitrary inconvenience for me. I have relatives just across the border and the lines, chaos, and time it takes to go to and from Tijuana make it difficult for us to see each other. Some of them can’t come here for whatever reasons that are never clear to me because some of them can.
I used to be able to go see them at a moment’s notice provided I was willing to brave the lines on the way back, but I can’t anymore. I don’t have a passport, I never did, but now I need one. Mexico has never been a foreign country to me, it’s just where much of my extended family lives. It’s time to get a passport because that arbitrary border should not keep me from my loved ones.
I love America. I love that parts of it are historically Mexican. It doesn’t make sense to separate families just because of borders that were drawn after war. Borders that were drawn regardless of whether you had people on the other side.
El otro lado has always been relative to me depending on what side of the border I’m on.
Disclosure: I was encouraged to share my immigration story as part of my role as a 2013 Top Bloguera. I wrote this at the airport on my way to New York for a Top Bloguera leadership retreat where we will visit the United Nations, discuss immigration issues, and attend the Latism13 Conference.