Rainy Leonor


I knew my mom was really sick and I was like, I want to go — I want to go be with her. I want to — I want — I’m tired of being away from her. I want to go just visit, and I want to come back before school starts.

And my aunt said, “No, you can do that.” I said, “Why not”?

And she sat me down and had that conversation with me.

She said, “You can’t come back cause you came here undocumented.”

As a child, even before I found out that I was undocumented, I was always, still don’t tell anybody how you came here. Don’t tell anybody how — you know, that… just don’t tell anybody anything about you, basically.

I came here when I was 6 years old. I knew that I was coming to the United States because it was something that my grandmother had told me — that my dad was going to bring me here.

That was a breaking point in my life, that I did want to go back. This is like, after high school. I was always very hidden and behind the shadows. I never wanted to get involved. I got involved in my community but not politically. More like, go into soup kitchens, feeding people that are homeless, stuff like that, but nothing politically. I always try to maintain myself out of that realm because of the fear that I felt.

After I graduated high school, I was like, “What am I going to do with my life”? There’s nothing I can do. I cannot work, I cannot go to school. Should I go back?

And my mom was very adamant. She said no.

She said, “You’re going to stay there. You’re going to find a way. We’re going to find a way for you to go to school.”

I was talking to my mom. I was like, you know about this? I can’t go see you. She’s like, “Yeah, you can’t.” She said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

I said okay. You know, we would always talk on the phone, always pray. One day we’ll see each other. She would always try to give me advice, to be a good girl, to go to school, to get good grades. You know, Mom-type talk. I never got to see her again. The last day I saw her was when I was 6 years old and I said goodbye to her.

So that was my goodbye to her. She passed away 4 years ago. I had to teach myself how to be strong, how to take care for myself, how to fight for myself, how to defend myself. So I’ve had to learn a lot. I had to grow up a lot, really fast.

I live on my own. My brothers and sisters — I have two brothers and two sisters. One brother is for my dad’s side. He was the one that came here with me, undocumented also, but he later was sent back to the Dominican Republic. Shortly after my dad was deported, he was sent back to the Dominican Republic by one of my aunts.

My dad and I were really close when I was little. Our relationship deteriorated when he was arrested back in — like, a few months after I came to the United States.

When you’re in a tough situation, as a human being, you have to make a make a very quick decision. It’s either you go with, you know — you ride that way, and you’re going to sink and you’re going to drown. That’s the reality. And in real life I can’t even swim. *laughs*

How do I do it? I think I have a floatie on or something.

Rainy’s full story is available in “Untold, Unseen, Unheard: Perspectives on Immigration.” All book sales support Writing Wrongs future journalism events and activities.