Cleiver Ruiz Martinez
My immigrant story is complex and beautiful, one of resilience and determination. I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and at the age of 3, my mom and I embarked on a journey to join my dad in the USA. Our hearts were filled with hope and dreams, but I encountered the harsh realities of navigating life as an undocumented immigrant.
My family and I have experienced the devastating consequences of a system that does not recognize us. My earliest and most impactful challenge was translating legal documents for my family. The constant fear of deportation compounded this responsibility. When I was in the fourth grade, I translated a pivotal document for my uncle. My little experience and misunderstanding of the document’s significance led to a miscalculation of the court date, resulting in the heart-wrenching outcome of my uncle’s deportation. I held myself accountable for not fully grasping the language and the deep implications of the situation. This memory etched itself into my consciousness as a harsh reminder that translation was more than just converting words; it bore the power to shape someone’s future, for better or worse.
Growing up in Nashville, I immersed myself in the city’s vibrant cultures and communities and developed a deep connection to my city. Yet, my path remained difficult, entangled with questions of identity that persistently haunted me. The phrase, “Ne soy de aqui o de alla”- “I’m not from here or there” often echoed in my thoughts. In Tennessee, I was frequently reminded that my existence here could sometimes feel unwelcome due to the state’s restrictive governmental policies, creating challenging obstacles to living and thriving in the place I had come to call home. However, I learned to embrace activism and advocacy wholeheartedly. Along the way, I found invaluable support from organizations and friends.
My journey through higher education has been marked by an abundance of blessings, as I’ve received unwavering support from both my dedicated teachers and the community. Amidst the challenges, I attempt to maintain my peace as much as possible. The looming uncertainty surrounding the fate of DACA continually weighs on my mind. Nevertheless, I remain thankful, knowing that not only does my community rally to protect my right to be here, but it also fights tirelessly to create opportunities for others.
DACA has afforded me remarkable the opportunity to work, own a bank account, obtain a driver’s license, and enjoy numerous other privileges I never thought possible. However, it’s essential to understand that DACA provides only a temporary solution. We must persistently fight for its continuation and tirelessly advocate for others to gain access to the same privileges that DACA immigrants currently have!
I have learned to embrace the word “inclusion.” It signifies the importance of recognizing and celebrating the diversity of our community. It serves as a reminder that we all come from different backgrounds, each bearing a treasure trove of unique experiences that enrich our collective immigrant narrative. In this diverse melting pot of America, our differences are not obstacles but the threads that weave the fabric of a stronger and more united country.