Why I am so Passionate About Atlas DIY
When I was navigating the legal system, I wish I had had a resource like this. My family came here over 15 years ago, when I was just a child. I took my first job when I was 14, working weekends as a cashier at a 24-hour News Stand in Brooklyn from 9 o’clock pm to 7 in the morning. Mondays were the hardest on me, when I went straight from work (Sunday night to Monday morning) to school. I was always exhausted on Mondays. I originally got paid $6 an hour, though for that I had to haggle with my boss, who wanted to pay me 5 since I was untrained and “illegal.” I worked for my uncle, but he did not treat me like a nephew, and often was the rudest to me, of all his workers. My mother hated to see me work at 14, but my father did not make enough, and we needed the money.
My father used to beat my mother and I, as well as my younger siblings (though them far less often than myself). He had been like this in our homeland also, where he had been a lawyer, but here it was worst since he was overworked and underpaid. For years we lived under the constant threat of beatings, and many times my mother wanted to report him, but she would think of what would happen to us – she was sure the government would take us away from her if they found out. Additionally, she knew we had no support aside from my father, and we had heard stories of the government jailing the father, but leaving the undocumented mother and children to fend for themselves. In the back of my head, I knew this would mean I would have to take a job full time, and that meant no school. I desperately wanted to get an education and build a successful life, and I knew I could not do that if I was working full time.
One day, I came home from school and found my mother beaten and my father gone. She had bruises all over her body, and there were pieces of the TV remote and a plastic hanger he had beat her with, all over the floor. I felt powerless. I could do nothing. My first reaction was to call the police, but my mother stopped me.
“If they find him they will jail and deport him, and then where will we be? He will come back in a few days, when he has cleared his head.”
But I did not want him back; if he was back I would not be able to go anywhere without the thought that he could be home beating my mother festering in my head. My schoolwork suffered that week, and the week after. I had always been very active in school clubs and class – and people began to notice the change in my attitude. One day, I got called to my guidance councilor’s office and she asked me what was wrong. And I broke down. I told her everything, and she promised she would help.
And God-bless that woman, she did help. Now my mother, my siblings and I have a U-Visa; we navigated the rough legal system for a whole year, and now we are on our way to becoming citizens. And all I can think about is all the pain that could have been avoided, all the suffering my mother and siblings could have been spared, if I had known these programs existed early on. That is why I am so passionate about Atlas – this is the kind of resource I wish I had had. A website, and a small office in Brooklyn full of people who want nothing else but to empower immigrants like myself, and yourself, to free themselves.
- Name Withheld
AtlasDIY Staff Member