Did you do anything to be born where you were?
If given the choice, most of us would pick wealthy, loving families in rich countries like Italy, France, the United States, or Canada. But we don’t get to pick. We don’t do anything to earn the blessings or misfortunes we are born with.
Imagine being born in a very remote, poor village—a place where time seems to have stopped a couple hundred years ago. In a place like this, there is no civil registry, no hospitals. Just farms, homes, and maybe a market and small plaza.
Maria, my nanny when I was a child, is from a town like this.
Maria is the most hard working, honest, noble person I know; a person that I love and admire for her selflessness and integrity. Residents of her hometown used to survive by growing corn. Although their corn is the most delicious I have ever tasted, changes in government policy and the market made it impossible for Maria’s family to make a living on the land. Her brothers migrated illegally to the United States, and, at the age of 16, she went to Mexico City to earn what she could as a maid. She ended up at my grandmother’s house, and continues working there to this day.
As a child, I remember asking Maria when her birthday is. “I don’t have one,” she told me. “I don’t know what day I was born.”
As a child, I couldn’t comprehend why Maria didn’t know her birthday. I couldn’t understand why no one recorded it, why she wasn’t issued a birth certificate.
As odd as it may sound, people like Maria are in some sense “illegal” or “undocumented” in their own country. Maria has no way to prove who she is or where she comes from simply because there was no system for keeping records in her town when she was born. Many people from her town do not have bank accounts, tax statements, or proof of income, much less birth certificates.
I was born to a privileged family in Mexico City. Five years ago, I fell in love with an American and we married. I am now a permanent resident of the United States. Despite my ability to prove my income and my identity, entering the United States through legal channels was a very long, painful, and expensive process. After going through that process, I’ve wondered how someone like Maria or her brothers could ever enter the U.S. legally when they don’t even have the ability to prove who they are in their own country. The truth is, they can’t.
I am in the U.S. legally because I was born to a privileged family. It breaks my heart that some of the people I love most must risk their lives crossing through the desert and live a life of fear when their only sin was being born in the wrong place.
Originally from Mexico City, Jasive Olivia Garza Castillon is currently a nursing student at Medical University of South Carolina.