I’m 40, an American citizen and have helped build senior engineering teams at Google, Apple and Amazon before landing in my current job at Twitter. But in 1986, at the age of six, I was an undocumented migrant from Peru. It took two attempts to cross the border and the second time was harrowing. We crossed on foot during a massive storm. I remember not being able to conceal my laughter, watching my aunt slip and slide trying to traverse the deep mud. What 6-year-old wouldn’t giggle? But the terror came soon after. We were being chased by immigration officials and everyone scattered. My aunt held my hand, but we lost my 9-year-old brother. Somehow, we ended up in the same California safehouse, reunited.
My parents had come two years before, my dad crawling through the sewers in Mexico, facing off with rats. My mother overstayed her visa. Back in Peru, they’d been accountants with good careers. But they wanted more for us and decided to join relatives on Long Island, N.Y. for two years, they worked to earn the money they needed to reunite our family: my dad in a vitamin factory and my mom cleaning houses.
My American life began in a tiny one-room apartment in Bethpage, N.Y. Later we moved to Plainview to finish high school. By that time, I was your average American teen: playing football, hockey, and lacrosse. I was recruited to play lacrosse for Whittier College in southern California. After graduating with a degree in kinesiology, I became a recruiter. At Twitter, I hire senior staff engineers. The job has lit a fire in me again. I love what I do, but I also love the freedom to be who I am: raising five kids with my wife Janelle on our rural farm in Elizabeth, Colorado, selling Boer goats, producing organic honey and eggs, but also participating in Twitter Alas and Twitter Blackbirds, employee resource groups for Latinx and African-Americans that amplify the voices of Brown and Black communities.
I wish more people could see immigration from my perspective. Our family legalized our immigration status in the 1980’s under President Reagan’s amnesty. Today, we are all U.S. citizens. My brother is a Fire Captain in West Palm Beach, FL. Like me, he is doing his part to make America better and safer. I’m so proud of my family– where we came from and how we’ve contributed to this country.