Looking for Home -by Brizia Ceja
I’m a Returned DREAMer, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, a DREAMer is a person who was taken to the USA as a child and who grew up and went to school there, but who does not have legal status to be in the country. The term comes from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which was first introduced to the US Congress in 2001, this law would give undocumented minors a path to citizenship. Unfortunately, after many attempts and 18 years later, it is near impossible for a DREAMer to become a citizen of the US.
I was born in Mexico and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 12 years old. Utah was and still is my home, I attended Northwest Middle School in Rose Park, I went to West High School in the heart of beautiful Salt Lake City, and then I graduated from the University of Utah. I always knew about my legal status, or lack thereof, but I was one of many students in that situation and we didn’t let those circumstances push us down; quiet the opposite, in my case specifically, being undocumented made me resilient, helped me become stronger and appreciate the sacrifices my mom made, now as an adult, I know it was not an easy decision for her to leave her country and friends to give us a better life, and as a mom I respect that, because if I was in her same situation I would probably do the same. If I wasn't able to feed my son, if I didn’t have an education, a job, a partner to support me I would pick up my baby and cross any border.
When I think of “home” I think of a place where I can be myself, where I can feel free to express my opinion, a place where I want to make my best effort to make it better. I don’t feel any of that when I think of Mexico and that makes me sad. Mexico is a beautiful country, full of natural resources and even though I was born here and I am a legal citizen I don’t feel a genuine connection. I have been here for seven years and is still difficult to adapt, arriving to the country where I was born was a cultural shock, I feel as if is easier to feel pride in my Mexican heritage while living abroad than it is to be proud in Mexico. I honestly don’t care what most people think, I consider myself to be Mexican American, “home is where the heart is” and my heart is still in Salt Lake City Utah, it’s on the hallways of West High School, is at the Marriott library on the U of U campus, is at the UNP house on the west side, but above all is at my mom’s house. Seven years is a long time, and with each passing day I need my mom’s and siblings’ hugs more and more.
Some days I don't really know where home is, do I belong in the United States? Will I ever adapt to living in Mexico? I’m not from here, I’m not from there, ni de aqui ni de alla. Being a returned DREAMer is a lonely place, which makes me feel even less that I belong; my experiences have made me who I am today, the values I learned, and the wisdom which was shared with me by smart and resilient women let me know that someday, somehow I will be at home again.
Brizia with her brother, sister and mother in Utah (2010) and through social media (2019)