Thursday, December 31, 2009


OOF. that is how I can best describe this past year. OOF.

It has been a year full of hopes, excitements, and disappointments. It has been a year of discoveries and full of new faces. I has been a fast year yet it took its time in ending.

2009 made my anxieties worsen. It made me stress out. It marked the two year anniversary of my college graduation. it was the year i had to run away from a decent job, due to immigration status.

But 2009 brought me many blessings too.

2009 brought (to me) the inspiration to participate in the growing student led Dream Act movement. It gave me the opportunity to meet so many undocumented students who are fighting for their right to be regarded equal members of society.

2009 brought many friends, many of whom i've written about here.

2009 was the year of firsts in which i first flew to another state. first time i booked a hotel. first time i organized an event. first time i did a radio interview. first time i did a TV interview. My first Bike party. My first two bedroom apartment with an actual door. first taco de lengua (tongue taco). First Stanford (or any college ) tailgate. My first Activist retreat.

As 2009 comes to an end I am once again filled with anticipation. With the fierce adrenaline of hope that 2010 will be the year we have all been longing for.

Happy New Years!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Houston Texas - Flight number 416- Part 5

Once inside the departure area, i walked up to a kiosk so i could check in, entered my ticket number and got the following..." Im sorry, your flight time is too close for you to be able to check in". shit. "run Gabriel", and i ran out and called her back. "i cant check in. i missed my flight. its ok. what do i do?"...she was calm "go to the airline and check the next flight, ill turn around in case you need me to pick you up".

The only humans wearing Continental Uniforms where at the baggage check in area, so i went up to one and explained the situation. I dont know how it happened, but the dood checking in baggage managed to print my boarding pass, "hurry" he said. I ran to the TSA line, ironic i think. Shit. the line was packed and moving slow. shit. how much time did i have? checked the phone. no signal.

Being an engineer and a math geek, i quickly calculated the rate of change (the derivative of the line movement in respect to time) and found that i was figuratively screwed. I did not have enough time to make it. I asked the lady behind me for the time, "8:43" she said..."why" . I explained my dilemma and she suggested that i talk to the TSA officer who was walking around...umm But before I knew it, the lady flagged the agent down, and i found myself explaining the situation to the TSA agent, whose only suggestion was to politely cut in line. Great.

I managed to move five people ahead, but when i reached the sixth and gave her my whole speech about being late, she said " WERE LATE TOO!" and that was that..."i missed my flight, i need to buy another ticket, crap another night at the hotel.."

As i turned to leave the line, i saw the TSA pointing in my direction, she was with a man wearing a suit. they both approached me and the man (who was some sort of manager i suppose) asked me for my ID and Boarding Pass. Inside i was shaking uncontrollably, outside i had to remain calm. "you're running late huh?" yes sir i told him. "come with me" and just like that he escorted me to the TSA line where the pilots go through. "Youve got about ten minutes hurry".

This time the lady TSA agent that checked my passport smiled, she had a UV light to scan my ID, and she asked me about my visit. I told her how it amazed me that it had snowed here and how awesome it had been. she smiled, "ok hon, have a safe flight".

I didn't even tie my shoes or put my belt back on after going thru the Xray and metal detector machines. I ran. I ran like the McCallisters from home alone. I ran for what seemed like 4 blocks to gate 29. I ran through the crowds and swerved to not hit people with my carry on bag, which now weighed a ton.

When i got to my gate i could not breathe...I handed my pass to the stewardess and she said "ok darling you made it". I was the last one on the plane. I called her to let her know i was alright. She cried.

It was there, on the plane, where it all hit me. The magnitude of what had happened and was still happening. I won't lie. My emotions got the best of me. I tilted my head back, took a deep breath and felt my racing heart.

During the flight back my mind was cluttered with thoughts, memories, ideas, songs and what not.

I fell in love with a beautiful fantasy. And i got to live this fantasy for four days. But fantasies end as reality welcomes us with open arms.

I grew a lot on this trip. I learned a lot as well. I learned that sometimes, you have to let fantasies be just that, fantasies. And I learned you have to let them go.

Houston Texas - Flight number 416- Part 4

Everyone tells you that you should arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight, so that you have plenty of time to check in and go through security and all that. So I knew we were cutting it close when she picked me up at around eight am (my flight being at nine). I loaded my things in the car, kissed her and then we got on our way.

Snow still covered the grass and buildings, and the roads were icy and slippery, so she drove slow and carefully. As we got closer to the airport, the knot in my stomach grew tighter. Our hands were clasped together.

One of the things i've come to realize is that Airports are confusing places, starting with the parking areas. There are so many signs, and one must stay on a particular lane or else you end up in another area, completely opposite of where you intended to be. We missed our lane, and with out knowing, somehow ended up in the wrong parking lot, and it took us about then minutes to realize this, since the elevator was so far from the car. Finally when we got off the elevator we saw that we were not in the departures areas, but rather the airline ticket place...crap.

She began to get worried, i could tell by the hurried pace in her step, so i tried to not show my concern that i had about 30 minutes to check in, get through TSA and board the plane. I've always thrived under pressure haha.

Once again in the car, we had to exit the airport and re-enter it. this time scanning every sign twice and making sure we were in the correct lane. then we saw the sign "Continental Departures"...she pulled up to the unloading area and we both got out. The knot was about to burst.

Einstein was right, time really is relative. As we drove around, the minutes were flashing by, and yet as we hugged in front of the departures entrance, every second was frozen in time. Tears rolled from her eyes. I wiped them away and kissed her once and again. "be strong. its ok, smile that pretty smile si?". I could not cry. "go" she said. "go. you are going to miss your flight".

Sometimes, the hardest things in life just happen. Letting her go was one of those. Looking back, and seeing her smile, while tears rolled down her checks. it just pierced me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Houston Texas - Flight number 416- Part 3

It was approximately 12:45 pm on December 1, 2009 when i landed in Texas. I was not able to see the city from the air due to the cloudy day. I waited till the people in front of me started to move forward, then i got my carry on and slowly walked out of the plane. My heart was racing, pounding, like it wanted to break free, out of my chest and explode. Slowly i entered the airport, took a deep breath and looked around...

Welcome to Texas Gabriel. The thoughts in my head are a bit cloudy. But i remember thinking, "holy shit, im not in California". First thing i did was step into the bathroom to wash my face and try to wake up. then i got my things together and walked through the airport towards the baggage claim area. If you were a person in that airport on that day, you could tell i was a newbie. Slowly i walked, taking in everything, from the small carts taking people to their gates, to the hurried pace of every one, and the bored looks on the shop cashiers.

I remembered i had been told i would go down some escalators, then would be immediately at the baggage claim area. So when i saw them i felt my heart rate go even faster, "is this normal?" i thought. There I was, on baggage thingy number 6 waiting. A few minutes passed and i started to get anxious, had i misunderstood? was in the wrong area? oh man why does one's mind race at the speed of light when fear enters. heart pounding.

Then I saw her. She had a green blouse under a white sweater, jeans and a concerned look on her face. I noticed that the incessant pounding of my heart had stopped. As i walked towards her she began to walk away, distracted, no doubt looking for me. I followed behind her for a bit, a sly smile on my face. Then she stopped turned and saw me. I smiled. She smiled. We embraced. She smiled. The most beautiful smile i've ever seen. "hello" I said. and we walked towards the parking structure.

There we embraced once again. I kissed her and hugged her tightly, as i felt her begin to cry. " its ok sweetie I'm here safe" i think i mumbled. She smiled and we got into the car.

The next four and a half days are a glorious blur. I met her family and friends. We went to the galleria, Ice Skated there and then had coffee at Agora. We went to NASA, where i nerded out and got sick in the process. We met Carlos and his son Caleb, the lil' Gansta. We had coffee with her parents and saw the Blindside (not so good jaja), we had Texan BBQ, What-a-Burger, Tapioca with Lidia and Juan. I spent hours chatting with her mom, getting to know her and learning about her and her family's struggle in this country.We went to college station, and visited Texas A&M (where she went to school), drove through the medical center in Houston, saw the Christmas decorations of down town and to top it off it snowed in Houston on Friday. I made my first snowman and had my first flight canceled due to weather conditions.

In short, those four days were amazing. I was essentially able to step out of my self, out of my reality and transport myself into something where I felt, well...normal. Like a normal 27 year old man, who was traveling and blessed with the company of some one very dear to him.

But like all fantasies, it had to come to an end. My flight was on Saturday (December 5th 2009) at nine in the morning. As i sat in my hotel room at 3 am, i thought " I will always remember this trip, this moment, these days, as the precise moment in time where my life in the United States changed. The moment where I began to start living."

With so many thoughts, sleep was hard to come by that night.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Houston Texas - Flight number 416- Part 2

I approached the TSA agent with a smile on my face, set down my carry on bag and handed her my boarding pass along with my passport (which was opened to the first page). In the process i noticed my shaking hands so i cupped them together by my mouth, blew air into them and muttered "wow its really chilly this early huh". The TSA agent smiled back and nodded, then she looked at the two documents infront of her...and looked. Mere seconds must have passed but it seemed like a week took place. I tried not to be nervous while she checked off my pass with her marker. And just like that it was over. I had passed my first TSA security point, and i was on my way to Houston, Texas. I was really doing this.

What followed next may be mundane to the average traveler, but to me every step of the process was a new discovery. as if i had been abducted and was no walking through the alien spaceship. The Xray machine, the metal detector, the boarding area shops, the little TVs with your flight info.

Yeah, i know. But to me it's all about the little things.

I got to my gate and was the only one there. my body still tense and shaking as i looked out the window. My mind was racing. You may ask why this was such a big deal, going to another state, getting on a plane, ect. To me it was more than that. It was symbol of freedom, but also it was a sign of growing up. "Rite of Passage" said Mark, "like renting your first car". I booked the flight, i booked the hotel, i planned the trip. It was probably the most normal adult thing i have ever done in my life.

Alone with my thoughts, i waited as the minutes passed and more people arrived at the waiting area. Then they started letting people board the plane. A rush of adrenaline ran through my body, i got chills, the butterflies, stomach knots. you name it.

My seat area (or what ever) was called. I walked up almost like a kid about to pee, and began to board the plane. As soon as i entered i was greeted by a stewardess, who directed me a bit down to my seat. I told her i had no idea what i was doing since it was my 1st flight in ten years jaja.

She showed me to my seat, and helped me with my carry on. I was lucky enough that somehow i got a window seat, and after struggling with the seat belt, i sat down and looked out towards the dark airport landing strip.

The feeling inside is indescribable. It was a feeling of relief, of freedom. I wanted to run through the airport and run through that plane and yell at the top of my lungs. I am flying. I am going to get to travel. I am taking control.

It felt like i could finally breathe, even if for a while, after 20 years.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Houston Texas - Flight number 416- Part 1

As I stepped away from this blog, I decided I was going to face some fears of mine. There are many things that I fear as an undocumented American, one such thing being the simple act of boarding an airplane.

In early November an opportunity came up where I was invited to Houston, Texas, to meet some one very special to me, along with some Dreamer friends I've met online. I decided I would go. That same week I booked my flight for December 1st to the 4th.

1999 was the last time I had flown. It was a pre Real ID 45 minute flight to Los Angeles. I was a senior in High School and I was able to use my school ID.

This time I would fly using my Mexican Passport, which obviously contains no visa. I would have to show my passport to TSA agents at the airport an hope that they don't decide to look past the first page. I was a bit encouraged by having heard stories from other students about how they fly with their passport (including my own younger sister Gina) with out any problems. Yet the fear lingered there, as i remembered the late night call from Ju, when he was stopped and questioned by TSA at Oakland Airport. Worse, I remembered the story that Aldo told me of how he was questioned by Houston TSA when he was flying back to California.

I had a whole month to dwell on these thoughts of encouragement and fear, both alternating like an emotional sine wave (shout out to math lovers!). "But I'm 27", i thought, " i NEED to do this". That was my logic, i need to take control of my life, let go of fears and begin to live. otherwise I will spend the rest of my life in regret. Always looking back.

"i NEED to do this" it was this thought that remained in my mind as i walked up the the empty TSA check point at SFO at 4:30 am on December 1st 2009. My hands shaking, my body tense, my mind focused.

i need to do this...

Immigration and Undocumented Immigrants 101

This resulted from a facebook message (of all places) sent to me by an friend and old coworker. Even as I become more open with my status to others, there is still so much misinformation out there, that people who know me don't really understand what exactly it is to be undocumented. I Omitted the name of the person, for privacy reasons.

Also, please do not judge -----, as this person is a legal immigrant from Hong kong, for which English is a second language and who may not be so familiar with what is going on immigration wise in the USA.

" From: -----

i want to say something about immigrants and illegal...

According to my understanding from the post of USA Today, those people are really come to the USA illegally. However, they can't be blamed and deported like this because USA didn't stop these immigrants coming over illegally. USA should work hard on stopping illegal immigrants at the border instead of deporting them when they found out.

I don't know about the high school stuff, but those illegal immigrants can register to and graduate from High's the USA's problem that they didn't require SSN. Do people need to pay for attending High school? If yes, these illegal immigrants are able to pay is lucky and good for the kids to be educated. Education is always the most important whereas nowaday's kids/teenagers are so rude and not respecting others. Especially there're so many single-parent families and parents are not allow to hit their kids when they're not behaving.

Sometimes it's hard to trust illegal immigrants will study/work hard. I personally sometimes don't like those just come to the States and get benefits without working. And some of them just keep giving births to babies and get benefits. Some of them even use the food stamps to buy valuable foods to eat...I heard of it like shark fins and all other expensive foods.
For those really want to stay here for study and work hard, I'll suggest creating a record and keep track of their status. If they do study well and work hard, they can stay since those are working have to pay the TAX. :D Childrens go to school have to pay for tuition fee...this should be one of the incomes for the State/Country?"

And here is my response:

" Hi ------ :)

Thanks for the opinions. Although i think we have some slight disagreements when it comes to this topic. I'm not sure if you are aware, but i am undocumented (or as you refer, illegal), I was brought to the US when i was 7, so i see a lot of the myths that are thrown around to describe people like me. I want to let you know that i did not cross the border, but rather came on a visa (which expired) as do the majority of undocumented immigrants. While i do agree with you that the US has to do something, i disagree on actuality of what should be done. I mean, the US Immigration System is broken and does not reflect the actual needs of this country, as such it should be reformed so that not only will it allow easier and more regulated movement of people, but also bring 12 million human beings out of societies shadows.

It is allowed for undocumented children to attend US public school (Supreme Court Case Plyler v Doe 1982), and you're correct education is very important. But unfortunately after high school many of these youths do not have the option (in some states) or money (in most states) to attend college ( about 65,000 graduate High School every year). Instead they have no choice but to go to work as gardeners, painters, waiters, ect. These kids want to continue their education, they want to study so that they can contribute to this country, which they consider their home like i do.

Another misconception that i wanted to touch base on was that of undocumented immigrants, babies and benefits. Yes undocumented immigrants have babies, but you are misinformed, because undocumented immigrants do not qualify for any federal assistance (like i didn't get financial aid for example). I do agree that immigrants (legal or not) that do not contribute to this country and are just a drain on resources should not be rewarded with food stamps, but in the grand outlook, it is only a small percentage that do so. the majority of immigrants (legal or not) are hard working people who want a better future for their families and who call this country home.

As an undocumented immigrant my self (one that has been here 20+ years) I do not consider myself a drain on society, i pay federal income taxes, state taxes and sales taxes. I paid for my entire college education (which is why it took me so long LOL :P) and have thankfully never had any problems with the law.

I do consider my self and the many other undocumented students (many who were brought as very young children), a lost opportunity for this country. We are being wasted on jobs that pay us minimum wage, and that dont utilize our skills and education to the fullest. Not only that, but if we were able to work in our fields of study we would make more money which really means we would pay more taxes (like 8 dollars vs 15, you pay more taxes). Which is why i am an advocate for the DREAM Act ( which would provide me with a way to gain legal status (there is no other way to do so unless i get married).

Anyhow, I hope i haven't overloaded you with my points on this issue :P, it is a subject that is very personal to me. I also hope that if you did just find out about my status, it does not change the dynamics of our friendship.

Merry Xmas!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Is an "illegal Student" USA today?

this is a repost from my friends over at :

Would a truly reputable national newspaper use the N-word to describe African-Americans and say it is just "company policy?"

I doubt it. But that the USA Today has done something similar.

On December 15, USA Today ran an article titled “Groups try to delay deportations of illegal students," (( in which they called young immigrant students in the United States “illegal students.”

USA Today reporter, Emily Bazar (, says she is just following company policy when she labels young immigrants without papers as “illegal students." See the email where she justifies her actions:

Appalling, isn't it? But she blatantly avoids the issue at hand. I get the “illegal immigrant” euphemism because that slur is familiar. But just what exactly is an "illegal student?"

No human being can be illegal. Click on the link below to tell USA Today to stop competing with the archaic immigration system and drop the use of the word ‘illegal’

After Emily Bazar implicated that the use of "illegal immigrant" came from a webcast with representatives from NumbersUSA and National Council of La Raza, Lisa Navarette from NCLR came on record within a few hours to say that "'Illegal student" is not only wrong on substance and grammar grounds, it is just plain laziness on the part of people who purport to adhere to journalistic standards [...] We would never purport to tell anyone what to call themselves or define their identity for them."

I am asking you to stand up with me. Don't be afraid and do not let anyone label you, your family, friends, students and an entire community of disenfranchised people as "illegal."

Sign the petition directed at USA Today and spread the word

If you need more details, our blog post on this issue is here:

If you can write about this on your own blog, copy-paste this to your contacts or make calls to the following people, that would be great as well:

Heidi Zimmerman
7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22108
(703) 854-5304

Alex Nicholson
7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22108

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back Again

I've been gone for about two months. Reflecting, working and growing. But now as Immigration Reform is introduced into the legislative agenda and on the verge of the one year anniversary of this blog, i think it fitting to come back to the bloggosphere and return to my ramblings.

Now more than ever we need to ramp up our efforts to be heard. to say "hey! here we are! we exist, we live and breathe! and we need to be recognized".

So I come back refreshed and ready, to once again add my two cents on what it is like to live as an Undocumented American in the United States.