I emigrated from El Salvador at the age of 10 and succeeded academically in this new country, learning English in three years. In middle school, I realized I did not have a Social Security number—and my life changed. I knew I was different and I felt ashamed for being marginalized and left out of many academic opportunities because of that lack of documentation.
After seeing the injustice immigrant students like me face daily, I decided to fight back and resist the Trump presidency by advocating for immigration rights in Los Angeles.
As we see the possible end of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), our shift has been toward legalization, not merely crumbs from the Obama administration. But having nine digits and a work permit from the DACA program allows me to feel closer to who I am: an American.
In high school, I discovered I was different, again. I was the only gay student in my small charter school. In 11th grade, I came out.
Hearing derogatory terms daily, I founded the first GSA in school.
Having to deal with my sexuality and legal status could be seen as traumatic. However, they have been empowering experiences. I see school as a safe haven where my gender, sexual orientation and immigration status should not be a barrier. To me, learning is universal and brings us all together.
The hardest impediment I’ve had to overcome has been my illness. I was in 11th grade when what started as a 6 hour wait in the emergency room turned into a 9 month stay in the hospital. I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Having no control of my body and being more dependent on my parents was horrific.
My dad is the reason I am still here today. He said, “Son, as much as I love you, if you give up now you might as well tell all these people to stop wasting their time, and tell me to start planning your funeral. Is this how you really want to end your last days on earth, in a hospital bed?”
I was dumbfounded. Holding back tears, I hugged him and knew I had to fight. I had already overcome so much, I knew I could do this. I pushed myself to return to high school after a few months of chemotherapy and completed my work by the end of the summer with all “A” grades.
In college, cancer returned again, twice. I went for a routine appointment with my doctors and a CBC blood test showed that my white blood cells were reproducing abnormally. My leukemia had returned. Recovery took a year. But in Spring 2015, a small amount of leukemia was found in my bloodstream again, I went into treatment for a year and received a bone marrow transplant. My mother was the donor—she has given me life, twice.
As I write this, my cancer is back. I am fighting.
This year has been about falling in love with Resilience.
I’m the worst fear of the Trump administration: an undocumented, queer man, who is ill and fighting hard for his life.
I am privileged to have private insurance through the hard work of my mother, whose immigration status is also under threat. My mother is a TPS (Temporary Protected Status) recipient—another group under attack.
These are folks who have built a life here for 10-plus years. They are mothers and fathers of children who are US citizens. Folks who have worked hard to build their American Dream. Undocumented Americans, much like “Dreamers,” who were given so little, who have to pay a fee to this government every 18 months to work, but yet have overcome and thrived. Folks who deserve as much protection as “educated” “deserving” immigrants deserve.
I have taken it upon myself to make sure their story is known because our movement is intersectional.
I have fallen in love with resilience. And I have fallen in love with myself—all of me. The femme queers are leading this movement! I have fallen in love with telling my own story and saving my own life.
I am tired of waiting for the American public to decide that I am worthy—worthy of education, worthy of healthcare, worthy of life. Worthy of humanity.
This president tells us that we are worthy of protection—but only if we throw our own community under the bus. We dismiss this narrative. We will not sell out our family, our own safety. How could I live with myself if I traded my family for a green card? Yet this is the game this administration is trying to play with me and nearly 800k others, along with 325 thousand TPS recipients and more than 11 million undocumented folks living in America.
This year has been hard but it’s also been the year that we marginalized folk woke up. We showed up for each other. We realized our liberation is embodied in everyone’s liberation.
I’m majoring in political science at Cal State LA and want to earn a Masters Degree in public policy to fight for underrepresented communities. One day, I want to be in Congress. I want to make policy for others who deal with unforeseen circumstances like I have, and for them to know that they can succeed. I am not a story of sadness but a story of resilience.
Jose is a student at Cal State LA, and a community organizer. #FreeLuis.