When I was eleven years old, at the time I did not realize that I was taking a picture that would be so precious to me, and that it would lead to such a special moment between me and one of my closest friends. As I mentioned in my previous article, Emily Lauren Mata, an art student connected with me on Instagram when she saw from my posts that I was a DREAMer. She asked me to share with her something that she could paint for her immigration-themed art show portraying how arbitrary borders are. The one I sent her was taken with my sister-figure, Natascha.
I was introduced to Natascha when I was eleven and she took a liking to me. Growing up, she would take me to movies, and to lunch or dinner. I was always so excited to see her because we would talk about everything. One of my favorite memories is of when she hosted my twelfth birthday sleepover. She saw in me what I didn’t even know was there. I genuinely didn’t think that I would ever be anything more than a housekeeper or a housewife if I was lucky enough to marry and get a Green Card.
Hiding who I was made me shy and insecure, but she helped me build my confidence and imagine a brighter future. When I graduated from high school, I couldn’t legally work or drive. My mom, who supported me, had gotten married to an American six months into my senior year and became a citizen without me. When she married him, he couldn’t adopt me because I was a week away from turning eighteen. My mom advised me not to spoil my chances at someday becoming legalized, by getting into trouble or being discovered as undocumented, so I never took risks like driving without a license or working under the table. All I could legally do was get an education.
I went to community college for three years longer than my peers. I had to stay the three extra years because I was not eligible for financial aid to transfer to a University. It wasn’t until President Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order into effect, that I was able to apply for grants and scholarships, and finally work. I was mentally exhausted but I stayed focused 5 more years and got my degree. I would not have made it through the darkest period of my life, had she not been always just a phone call away with unconditional love and support.
I used to tell my friends that she was my sister, because that’s how it felt. Being sisters has always been a mutual feeling between us, and I felt like I needed other people to think how I felt about her was the truth. The truth is that while we are not biologically related, some bonds are thicker than blood.