Raised in a tiny village in Galilee, my father, the eldest of 5 children, was raised by loving parents who made a meager living as poor farmers. My mother, who was raised in an orphanage from a young age by a community of Sisters in Jerusalem, married my father at seventeen. During my childhood, my father worked as a mechanic and my mother as a teacher. While our home was filled with love, my parents recognized that their children would have better opportunities for education, advancement, and success in the U.S.
Our family arrived to the United States on a temporary visitors’ visa, which we overstayed after six months. My parents made great attempts to become “legal,” spending money on attorneys who stole from us and gave us false hope, only to leave our family wondering if we were ever going to have the chance to stop living under the shadows and fear of deportation. Beginning at the age of eight (and beyond), I did not quite understand what our immigration status meant or even where it stood. The only thing I knew was that our status was a secret and we were never to mention that fact to anyone, ever.
I entered college without the ability to receive federal financial aid because of my status. My parents helped support me until I began working and supporting myself. After completing graduate school, I moved across the country to complete a year of service with the Center for FaithJustice, which helped me see the intersection between faith, service, and social justice.
Profoundly touched by my experience as an undocumented immigrant, and especially in recognition of how blessed my family has been relative to millions of others, my experience has informed my commitment to supporting those most in need. Throughout my many years as a social worker, I have had the honor to meet God in inner-city at-risk youth, homeless men and women, pregnant and parenting women struggling to maintain sobriety, the elderly, faithful friends and colleagues, my faith community, family, and strangers.
Recently, three months shy of my thirty-first birthday, with no criminal record, having lived in the U.S. at least five consecutive years and arrived before the age of 16, and holding an advanced degree, I completed my application for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. After a seven-hour wait in line to complete my application, I was certain that God had awaited my arrival in that Catholic Charities immigration office since the Fourth of July twenty-two years earlier. But my new status is bittersweet as I, along with millions of others, pray in hopeful expectations that undocumented immigrants all over the country will have the opportunity to live freely in our home.
- What are the ways Widian served as an example of a model citizen, despite her status as an undocumented immigrant? How does her story relate to others that I have met?
- How might other aspiring Americans contribute to society if they were able to come out of the shadows?
- How do we appeal to Congress to pass immigration reform legislation that is inclusive of all migrants, regardless of when they arrived in the United States?
*Justice for Immigrants is a campaign by the Catholic Church to educate people about the church's teachings on immigration and to bring about reforms in our current immigration system