Areli Morales Author Post
I was a child of two worlds—a Mexican citizen by birth but raised as an American. The transition to life in America when I was only six was very difficult for me, but the love from my mother, father, and brother made it bearable. Still, living as an undocumented immigrant is scary, and my childhood was filled with secrets, struggles and lots of hope.
My story is one of the many stories of young people who face so much uncertainty and limitations due to their immigration status. My life changed completely when President Barack Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. DACA is an immigration policy that has provided relief to thousands of undocumented children, referred to as “Dreamers,” who came to the United States as children and call this country home. DACA allows us to stay in the country, work legally, and even apply for a driver’s license. Telling the government my immigration status was nerve-racking and scary. But after I compiled all the necessary documents, waited anxiously for months, and underwent an intense background check, my application was approved in 2013. I was finally able to come out of the shadows and focus on my dreams. I visited my home country in 2016 and graduated from Brooklyn College in 2018 with a childhood education degree.
My family’s mixed immigration statuses and economic hardships limited the places we could travel safely, so I often found myself travelling through books. I believe classroom libraries and public libraries are vessels that can transport us to different worlds even if we cannot do so in the real world. Books allow us to step into the life of someone different from us and help us understand their struggles and aspirations. I decided to share my story through this book so young readers could start to understand the hardships that I faced as an undocumented child living in the United States. Millions of recent immigrants like me are part of the American experience and contribute meaningfully to this country. I encourage educators to use my story as an introduction to the “Dreamer’ experience and help students advocate for the undocumented immigrant community.
In first grade, I slowly learned to read and write stories in English so I could assimilate to my new country and make new friends. Retaining my native language kept me connected with my family and Mexican heritage. Therefore, I felt that it was critical to incorporate Spanish words in the book. I’m also very proud that the Spanish version of the book will make my story accessible to multilingual learners. I hope that educators continue to celebrate and elevate the languages and cultures of their students through the selection of linguistically diverse books.
Lastly, I hope my story encourages librarians and teachers to continue to build safe spaces for all students including immigrant students that might find themselves afraid and unsure what the future holds. I want children to know that their stories matter and are worth being heard and documented.