“BANG! BANG! BANG!” Startled, I jolted from my sleep. Living in a small town in Mexico, you could never be certain where those midnight-bangs came from. Perhaps it was thunder, or maybe teenagers playing with fireworks but, most likely, what habitually woke you up were gunshots. The insecurity was everywhere and as the cartels began overpowering our town, the shootouts became more and more common. Thankfully, wanting us to learn English, my middle class parents had decided to enroll my brother and me in a small private school in Texas when we began elementary. We would cross the bridge every morning before school and every afternoon after school let out. Unfortunately, it got to a point where the 8 hours of safety we were getting while we were in class were not enough.

In order for my brother and me to live legally- and safely- in the country, my parents decided that, to keep us safe full-time, it would be best to give their custody of us to my aunt Aida and my uncle Juan (who are U.S. Citizens). Although the adoption took months to be finalized, it all seems like a blur now. Transitioning from living in a once-upon-a-time safe town in Mexico, to one that was constantly terrifying, to being adopted by Aida and Juan and living in the U.S. was, needless to say, a hard transition to make. I had to become mature at a young age but I believe that, if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

It wasn’t long after we moved in with Aida and Juan that I, now forced to think like an adult, realized that my parents had sacrificed what they had sacrificed so that we could have a better life. They gave up their rights as our parents not only so that we would be safe, but in order for us to be getting the best education possible. Knowing this, I made a resolution to fully take advantage of the opportunity that had been given to me. Everything I did in and out of school was so that I would make my parents proud and prove to them that the tough decision they had made had been the right one.

Being the first to be going to college in my new family, I dreamed of attending an elite university like the one I attend today- The University of Texas at Austin. I knew that in order for that dream to become a reality, school had to become my main priority. Since the beginning of my high school career and, honestly, even before that, I have had my eyes set on the finish line. That’s not to say, however, that whatever I have accomplished this far has made me forget where I come from.

Actually, it’s hard to forget. It’s hard to forget; especially when, months before your high school graduation your biological mother- who had no other choice but to live illegally in the United states to be close to you- gets deported. As soon as you think that things are starting to get better, the minute that you start to feel at home, something you thought only happened to other people in movies, happens to you. Having my mom miss my high school graduation and not having her move me into my dorm and out of it a year later, has had to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. The fact that something as simple as a piece of paper or plastic can tear families apart is unacceptable.

The United States has to realize the damage they are doing- not only to families, but also to themselves. Foreigners come into our country with a goal, a dream- the American Dream. We come here to work, to bring talent, to bring intelligence, to better ourselves and, in the process, better this country. We live in a society where aspiring political leaders believe that immigrants, specifically those from Mexico, are “criminals and rapists.” It is this flawed, ignorant view that is tearing families apart and breaking hearts. Our immigration laws are, more often than not, having a lasting, negative impact in the hearts and lives of many.

We can no longer sit idly by and watch children be torn from their parents’ arms. We cannot allow prejudiced laws to continue forcing parents to miss graduations, engagements, marriages, or any other monumental life milestones. If that is not motivation enough for lawmakers, perhaps money is. By shutting down immigration reforms like DAPA and DACA, they are losing up to $230 million in the span of a decade- which doesn’t make sense. At this point, not having some sort of immigration reform is illogical, bordering (pun intended) on ridiculous. Lawmakers need to realize the benefits, monetary and otherwise, that allowing immigrants to live out the American Dream can have for our country.

I will never forget the fact that I am where I am, that I have accomplished what I have, and that I live in this country because of my four parents’ sacrifices. I will make them proud, even if immigration laws don’t allow them to see it in person. Most importantly, I will make my country proud as well. I will prove to the United States that it was not wrong in taking me under its wing and accepting me as one of its own. I will help show the United States that immigrants are an asset to our country- NOT a drawback.