The Interview of Our Lives for the American Dream
My Journey as an Immigrant- Part Two of Three
December 4, 2018
Being undocumented was a struggle but alas, my family and I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel when I was 12 and my mother married her boyfriend of eight years who was a Permanent Resident.
After a couple of years of marriage, my stepdad, who I now my call my dad, applied and received his citizenship. This sped up our process toward obtaining legal status.
Our process took about five years and in April of 2018, my family received a letter in the mail notifying us that our interview for our residency, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had finally come.
This interview, although stressful and intimidating, is sought after by many, as it is the last step to obtaining Permanent Residency in the U.S.
The weeks leading up to the interview were worrisome.
Because we were required to leave the country, without the promise of return, I felt like that three-year-old kid again and had to leave everything, including my home and family, behind.
As we left the U.S., I risked never seeing anything I ever cared about again.
I will never forget the night we left.
Everyone was in a hurry packing and making sure everything was ready for our hopefully two-week trip to Juarez.
I made my bed but was not sure if I would sleep in it again. I gave my dogs a huge hug and prayed that if anything should happen to me, my babies would be safe in the hands of my uncle.
After saying all of our goodbyes, we locked all the windows and doors to make sure our house was safe during our trip and for our hopeful return.
After a day and a half of driving, we finally made it to El Paso, Texas, where we crossed the border into Ciudad Juarez.
This trip was no vacation. It was nerve wracking but my mom and dad worked hard to make it special, and in a way it was, because it was quality time spent with my family.
But all I could think about was my home. I thought about my dogs, my family, my friends and especially my grandmother, who played a major role in getting us into this country. I thought about my secret hiding spot in my room and what would happen to my stuff if I did not return. I thought about the possibility of never seeing anything I knew again.
One of the requirements for our interview was to go to a local doctor who would ensure that we were healthy. Because I was older than 15, a drug and blood test was required of me, along with several vaccines.
This was not like any ordinary doctor’s office, it was extremely strict.
Even the seat we sat in was strategic. When you were asked your name, it wasn’t just your first and last name, it was your first, middle, last and your mother’s last name. I was not used to my full name, which was four names long, I was only used to Alondra Castro and when I was asked for my name and did not give my full name, it raised suspicions.
Despite the stressful environment and the many hours my family spent at the doctor’s office, our medical exam was complete. All that was left was the interview.
Finally the day of the interview came. I stayed up until the late hours of the night, praying to God that everything would go well.
Walking over to the U.S. Consulate was exciting. My brother, my mom and I were dressed in our Sunday best and ready for our interview. We were nervous but our faith in God and our trust in our government’s judgement gave us hope for the best.
We arrived at the Consulate and were met with overwhelmingly strict rules and guidelines, determining every tiny detail of our demeanor.
With grey walls and security guards at every corner, there was tension in the building.
The extremely strict environment did not help to relieve our nerves. Although I was sixteen at the time, I held my mother’s hand tightly for as long as a I could, like a timid child.
In order to enforce safety regulations and keep the overall process moving efficiently, the security team put us through numerous metal detectors and checked our bags a number of times. They even went as far as to make us take a sip of our water and take a bite of our snacks in front of them to ensure they were edible and not some something that can cause harm.
After we made it past the security room, my mother and I were escorted to the room where the interviews were being held.
The doors were only allowed to be opened by a security guard, who assigns you a seat. Every step was exceedingly tedious, which also built the tension.
Upon entering through those big grey doors, we were met with a huge room of people whose lives differed but all had hope for the same outcome.
The emotions in the room made it terrifying. Because it was a government proceeding, it was orderly and therefore quiet but in a way the room was loud.
There were people crying when their visas were declined and people who were lucky and had theirs accepted. There were people in the waiting area praying and although they were praying quietly, the mumbling of close to one hundred people made a significant amount of noise.
When we walked up to line to get interviewed, you could hear some of the interviews going on. I got a glimpse of what was coming up ahead. This also gave me an insight into the lives of strangers, people who had no particular significance to me, yet we all shared the same aspiration.
Then we made it to the front of the line.
In front of us stood a woman with two daughters standing beside her and a baby in her hand. I noticed the young girls trembling as they stood listening to her mother answering questions about their lives. These girls could not have been older than eight but it was apparent that they knew what was going on and what was at stake.
Finally their interview was over and I witnessed all four of these strangers receive what we all so badly wanted, legal status in the U.S.
The smiles across their faces gave me optimism. Their tears of joy gave me tears of hopefulness. I was so happy for them. The doors of opportunity had opened for them and their family.
I said a quick prayer for my family and for all those around me and and moved up the window to begin our interview.
This is part two of a series of Ms. Castro’s immigration story.