30 Apr, 2015

people don’t talk about the necessity of crossing…

Sehba Sarwar
30 Apr, 2015

Karen Martinez, a filmmaker and a recent college graduate, talks about “home” and crossing borders:

Houston is my home. I was born in Tula, Hidalgo – Mexico – and my family moved here when I was ten. I haven’t been able to go back. It’s my parents’ home, but it’s an unclear memory for me. I’m still nostalgic for the place. My boyfriend Stan and I had conversations about where we come from. He was under the impression that we come from the same space. But we don’t. His father is Vietnamese and his mother is Chinese and he was born in Dallas. Cowboy!

He asked me if Tula is my home. I first said I didn’t know but then realized Houston has shaped me. I had a ticket to New York and I was about to go, but I cancelled my flight at the last moment, and I am still in Houston.

I am part of the DACA program – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This status has helped make me feel more welcome. Before being in the DACA program, it was difficult not being able to work legally or drive, even if other people can’t tell the difference. I went through DACA in January 2013 and every few years I have to pay more than $450 to remain in the program. And I still can’t cross the border, not officially. But I can work.

I remember being in Austin and talking to a senator and we were having drinks. I told him: “DACA is shit. It’s doing nothing for the parents.” Yes, I’m glad and grateful, but this was not promised to us. Obama could have done a lot better. He could have passed a different bill in his first two years, Obama promised amnesty or (a comprehensive immigration reform). The bill that was passed in 2012 does nothing for our parents.

My parents still deal with being undocumented. My father is one of the best. But there’s fear. My parents just tell me to work hard and they made sure I went to college. I do tell people around me that I’m in DACA, but I also say that I’m undocumented.

My parents left Hidalgo for financial reasons. Violence was starting. They didn’t want to see it. A lot of our family members had already crossed over into the US and that’s what my parents chose.

People don’t realize how hard it is to leave the place you call home. My parents they talk about the foods, the smells, the scenery but for me, the memory is hazy.

I find it so difficult when students around me backpack to Europe, Asia, but no one talks about the necessity of travel, the necessity of crossing. —Karen Martinez

This conversation is part of my What Is Home? project.