MARIE SLATTON-VALLE
June 17, 2017
MISA JOO
June 17, 2017

GISELLE MARIE BARONE

I’m a first-generation Mexican immigrant who has benefitted from government aid– essentially, America’s worst nightmare. Growing up, I never really understood what people meant by the word “immigrant.” I thought everyone had mothers who spoke a different language. I can pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that my mom wasn’t “white”– I was 7. Suddenly, my life as a kid in Los Angeles made a little more sense: all those times when people glared at my family at the YMCA, or muttered “learn the language,” or when other kids  casually referred to my  mom  as  my  “nanny.” I was different.  My  family  was  different.  And  for  some  reason, people  like  me didn’t “belong” here. This was strange to me because I had always been a good student, and besides,  this  was  my  home. At age 16, I  earned  a (merit-based)  full  scholarship  to Cornell   University,   with   the   distinction   of   being   a   Dean’s   Scholar.   I then attended graduate school at Northwestern University, where I received a Master’s in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Early Childhood Assessment and Intervention. I now work at a world-renown residential treatment center where I provide daily, on-site psychotherapy for the most severely abused and traumatized children in the nation. I feel like I’m contributing to my country. With this election, however, all those negative messages from my childhood are suddenly coming back, and louder. That children like me are wasting your children’s resources. That I’m a strain on the system. That children like me are parasites. Leeches. Anchor babies. I know that my story is a lucky one. Unlike my cousins, I was lucky enough to be born just a few miles north of the border. I fought for opportunities, and I was rewarded. I never have to worry about being deported. People look at me and say: “You don’t look exactly white” and leave it at that. For me, the sadness comes in waves. It comes when I think about how hard I’ve had to work to prove those anti-immigrant/anti-Mexican people wrong, yelling “See? I’m not a waste” and “Aren’t you glad I’m here?” Since I was 7 years old, I knew that much of this country would prefer that my mother never came here, and that I never existed. And every morning, I pledged my allegiance to a country that didn’t pledge allegiance to me.”

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