My father used to tend our garden. Then he was taken from us — changing what I understood about America’s fundamental covenants.

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A woman and her daughter in front of their home, Chicago, 1 June 2019 (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

By Lindsi Reyes

He doused the roots of his white carnations, careful not to soak the generous stems that lived inside this hanging pot. They glistened. He stabilized himself.

When I was two, my toes dug into the Mexican soil of my Abuelita’s garden. My hands traced the thorns of a rose whose life I soon ended. My great-grandma stared at me with a look of disappointment, a gaze that said, “What-else-can-you-expect,” knowing my father had once too played in this garden of unequal opportunity. Eran Palomas (they were pigeons).

By the time I was 10, there were three pairs of feet running around a front lawn of grass planted by a Mexican on American soil. Dad nurtured and watered that grass with the hose he later used to teach Héctor how to water. Mom sat on the bench protected by two palm trees that had been transplanted from California to our humble Colorado home.

I would grow up in that place and learn to live the life my father wanted for me. But before any of this, all he had been was a 20-year-old with an American dream.

Migration is one of those human events that happen out of necessity. People move from an unsettled place to another to find stability; at least that was the case for my Dad. His life in Mexico hadn’t offered the opportunity to grow, to innovate, to be better. He knew this was a promise that came with America — or at least that’s what he’d been told.

This was a land of stability.

He walked three nights and three days, arch-bodied on the back of a truck, and crossed a river, half-submerged, to get to the land of the free. When he met my mother and they had me, he worked hard to provide for a little baby girl. He got an apartment, then a house, then a whole family and a bigger house. This was a land of stability.

My father is full of life. He came here with the intention of building a better life, and to an extent, that’s what he got. He’s a man who holds integrity in one hand and generosity in the other. He ate up adversity with passion in order to become better each day. That was him.

I grew into 14. The flowerpots now hung from chains draped around a new home, a home where the flowers were safe. We had summer flowers, and we had winter flowers. These daisies and lilies made our house a home, and they were loved. Until that day.

That day, the flowers weren’t watered and the Forget-Me-Nots were forgotten. The next day, the sun didn’t kiss them. The day after that, a new set of smaller, similar — but unworked — hands clenched them.

Our home became a house.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

What is Life when you’re not free? What is Liberty when one is physically and then mentally detained? What is the pursuit of Happiness when their only pursuit is to “keep them out!”

The day my father was taken from me was the day those promises changed. The words became: illegal immigration, incarceration, separation, false accusations.

This is now the reality for many “illegals.” There are reportedly more than 2,300 children sleeping on cold concrete floors because their parents have been detained or deported to their country of origin. Much like my Dad, these are individuals willing to work hard to see their flowers bloom in better soils. Eran Cuervos (they were crows).

It was turning into fall when my father was stolen and winter when I left. The home became a house, the Huskies were sold and the flowers died. Y ya no hay pájaros (there are no longer birds).

Before I left, Héctor watered the grass the way Dad had taught him. Alex practiced soccer on it. Mama sat on her bench like a guard dog, knowing the space next to her was not going to be pressed by another body.

Algún día espero que podamos ser como los pájaros que migran sin miedo con la seguridad que el lugar al que van les permitirá lo que necesiten (Someday I hope we can be like the birds that migrate each year without fear, carrying with them the security that the place they go to will give them what they need).

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

  1. What is the Declaration of Independence?
  2. What do people mean when they refer to the American Dream?
  3. What policy changes have resulted in a surge of illegal immigrants being detained or deported from the United States?

Lindsi Reyes is from Colorado. Both of her parents are from Mexico. This year, she is studying abroad at School Year Abroad Spain in Zaragoza, Spain for her second year of high school. She regularly attends Kent Denver School in the United States. This story is a factual account of what happened to her father. She wanted to tell this story to inform people about the detentions and deportations occurring in the United States.

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What my garden says about the American dream

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