‘I had to leave everything to come here, with the hope of saving my daughter’s life’

Guadalupe Magdaleno
Sunflower, Kansas

This testimony was given at a forum of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Good evening.  My name is Guadalupe Magdaleno.  I am a proud mestiza.  A brown immigrant.  A woman. A mother and grandmother. A community leader born out of the fight for justice.  Sunflower is where I organize with many other Black, Brown, and White sisters and brothers and today, I am going to share a little bit of my story.

   At the young age of 16, I found myself with a beautiful gift.  That was my daughter, her name is Conchita.  But at 11 months of age, she developed a life-threatening allergy to dust and insects while also diagnosed with a low immune system that required treatment or she would die.

   We migrated to the United States in hopes of being able to provide the medical attention she desperately needed.  Shortly after our arrival to this beautiful country, she began to heal and completely recover from her illness.

   I can’t help but think as we face the current inhumane attack on immigrant families. I continue to thank God every day that my daughter was not ripped from my arms as a two-year-old as many of these stories we are watching in current times, as zero tolerance has been put in place.

   I had to leave everything to come to this beautiful country, with the hope of saving my daughter’s life. I could not understand at that time why I was never feeling like I belong, that I was welcome.  I did not understand much about immigration laws at the time.  All I understood is that this beautiful country allowed my daughter to live, and I wanted to be a contributing citizen of this country.

   I learned the language, I worked two jobs, I paid taxes, but still, I was less than.

After 20 years, I became a legal permanent resident, 25 years I became a legal citizen, and I was able to petition for my mother to come to this country.  But the process in this system is broken and doesn’t allow us to be a family.  It treats us like we don’t deserve to have a mother, a father, a child, a brother, a sister next to us.  I was able to file for my mother and as I saw her aging, I was praying to God because I felt that time was running out.

   In November of 2010, I was able to bring my mother legally as a permanent resident about 30 years after I came to this country.  Only, she was very ill — she nearly died in Ciudad Juarez when we were going through her interview.  I was able to bring her to Kansas just to die.  She arrived November 20, and she passed away January 2nd, 2011 at 6:20 am.

   I felt that I failed her. That I didn’t act quickly, I didn’t get to share with her all the dreams, and the progress and the beauty of this country. But I have realized it wasn’t me — I’m not the one who failed her.  It’s the system. A racist system that’s designed to keep us all in place that failed me.

   As we know, we are living in difficult times.  I keep a picture of my mother near me to remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s all upon us, brothers and sisters, regardless of political party, regardless of beliefs. We have to join together.  We have to stand together, fight together, and unite. Get out as one soul, as one body, and change destiny. Things in this country, I believe, can be better. And as a U.S. citizen by choice and a Mexican citizen by blessing, I believe we can do better.


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