The Depression of a Deportation Notice

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Fabian and his family overcame the fear and uncertainty of having the wrong documentation:

I was brought to the U.S. in the late ’80s by my parents while I was barely eight years old. We left Uruguay, where I grew up and where my sister was born. (I was born in Argentina for reasons still unclear to me.)

I attended school and ferociously embraced American culture. When I attended college, I was notified that I either had to pay cash or prove that I am a U.S. citizen. My family had gotten a deportation notice in the mail during that time. Although we had been living here for 10 years—which seemed like an eternity at the time—the INS did not recognize my family as having legal status. My father began to suffer from a major depression that deteriorated his health physically. I continued to study and worked three jobs at times.

In 2000, I married the love of my life, a refugee from El Salvador who was a U.S. citizen. We immediately started the process to become a permanent resident. By 2006, I had become a U.S. citizen in LA County. My dad took me to the ceremony himself to make sure I got there on time.

The first person I voted for was myself in a city council election. I lost by three votes in a three-person race in my district.

I am now a U.S. Government and U.S. History teacher. Eventually, my parents were able to become permanent residents through my status as a citizen. Unfortunately, my sister continues to be undocumented because she didn’t qualify for any programs. She is planning to move with her family to Canada due to the Trump presidency and his continuous anti-immigrant rhetoric.