Maria Gomez holds the hand of her three-month-old son. Gomez is in the U.S. illegally and fears deportation. She says she and her family came to this country in search of a better life.

Beckie Husker

Maria Gomez holds the hand of her three-month-old son. Gomez is in the U.S. illegally and fears deportation. She says she and her family came to this country in search of a better life.

[Editor’s note: Maria Gomez is an assumed name in order to protect her confidentiality.]

Maria Gomez and her family left behind their home, relatives and friends, all for the promise of the American dream.

Gomez was 11 years old when she and her family illegally immigrated into the United States from Mexico. They were in pursuit of a better life and came to Missouri to be near relatives who could help.

“I was so scared when my mother told me that we were moving to the United States,” Gomez said.

“And I was even more scared when I was finally here,” Gomez said. “Everything was just so different from Mexico.”

Her new life has brought many challenges. On her first day of school in the sixth grade, Gomez didn’t know a word of English.

“It was the scariest day of my life,” she said. “I remember thinking that I was never going to learn English, but I met these wonderful people that helped me with everything I needed. From how to go to the restroom to how to communicate with others.”

“That is something I’m very thankful for and I’m never going to forget. There were my very first friends.”

As an illegal immigrant, Gomez is unable to indulge in everyday freedoms, such as driving. But, more importantly, her situation prevents her from visiting family she hasn’t seen since she was 11.

“I can’t go visit my relatives back in Mexico that I have not seen in so many years and that I miss so much,” she said. “That is one of the hardest things you have to go through, and it’s all for following your dreams.”

Gomez and her three-month-old son live with her parents and younger sister. Gomez is particularly close to her mother who may be deported later this year.

“Just think about it, how would you feel?” Gomez said. “I am a first-time mom and … she helps me every time he needs something and she tells me exactly what to do and how to do it. She also loves him so much, and I just can’t see myself without her. It’s like losing something so precious that you love so much.”

Being deported is something Gomez fears for herself as well. She worries what would become of her son’s future if she were sent back to Mexico.

“That is something I have to live with every day,” she said.

Becoming legal would allow Gomez to visit her mother if she were deported. But, it would also allow her to fulfill one of her biggest dreams.

“I would love so much to go back to school,” she said. “I love school and going to college is one of my greatest dreams … I would have so much to give my baby and my family. There are just so many things I could do.”

Though being illegal has caused many difficulties, Gomez understands the reasons her parents brought her to America.

“My parents came here to work and give us a better life and something they never had like an education, not knowing that it was going to be this way,” she said. “All they were thinking about was a better life for all of us and new opportunities. That’s all they wanted.”

Gomez also fully understands the risk families like hers take to come to America.

“We come looking for that American dream, and sometimes we forget about the consequences it includes,” she said. “Thanks to God I did not lose my family coming here. But, there are thousands and millions of people that die every day trying to give their families a better life.”

Now, eight years since her first day of sixth grade, Gomez is a mother herself. She wants a successful future for her son and passes on to him what her parents set out to pursue: the American dream.