Nevada Immigration Profiles – Lina

by Maribel Cuervo and Brian Bahouth

The hem of a quinceañera dress at La Milagrosa on the corner of Vasser St. and Wells Ave in Reno, Nevada. The fiesta de quince años is a celebration of a girl's 15th birthday and celebrates the passage from girlhood to womanhood - image - Brian Bahouth

Reno – Maribel Cuervo continues her exploration of what it means to be a Nevadan with this interview with Lina.

Lina was born in Mexico and moved to Las Vegas when very young. Her mom worked in both Las Vegas and Reno, and soon after completing middle school, she moved to Reno and has yet to leave. Lina recently became a United States citizen.

Hear Maribel’s interview with Lina. The conversation begins in Spanish but changes to English after a minute or so.

What do you like about northern Nevada in particular Maribel asked?

“I love that we have all four seasons and I love the snow. And I love that we have, we live near Lake Tahoe. We’re only 45 minutes away. I love the mountains, the beauty. It’s paradise in our backyard. It’s beautiful.”

“Would you consider moving from Reno,” Maribel asked.

“If it was a business opportunity somewhere else that presented itself. I would definitely do that. But it would have to be something really good. I wouldn’t, there’s no reason to move away from my mother.”

Lina recently became a citizen. Maribel asked her how life has changed.

“I became a citizen and that makes me, definitely makes me proud,” Lina said. You know because I think as when I was still a permanent resident, I still didn’t feel like a citizen you know. I was still looked at differently. For example, when you present yourself to a job when you’re crossing the border is when you feel the biggest difference. And even though you are you know, I felt like I am a, I was a citizen since a long time ago because this is where I’ve been most of my life, it was still was still not seen as that at the border when it comes to when you present yourself to immigration and you’re step-graded. The permanent residents are over there. The citizens are over here. That’s when you feel the biggest difference. And I could tell you that as a citizen when I’ve gone back, even the way you’re treated is completely different. You know, this is very different, and I feel like I have a lot more rights now. And I do, I I literally do have a lot more rights but even just out of just the word respect when you’re crossing the border is different.”

Maribel asked for more detail on how it is different being a citizen or not. “You’re still the same person,” Maribel said.

“I’m still the same,” Lina said. “But when it comes to, when I, whenever I have to go to, when it comes to like the federal government, you know, when it comes to that, or even when if you would even get pulled over? Right, even if you get pulled over. The level of respect right away that the police officer will give you is different, and I’ve experienced that myself. So you know, to everybody else, nobody that knows me, I’m just, I’m the same, I’m still, I’m always not going to be, I’m never going to be Mexican enough to be in Mexico, and not, you know, a citizen enough to be here. I’m never, you know, people like me, we’re stuck in the middle. Either you go back to Mexico and you’re, for example my brothers all the guys getting ‘gringa habla gringa’ and this and this and that, but you do feel a little bit, you know, like you’re not Mexican enough to be there. But I’m never going to be white enough to be here pretty much, get the white privilege.”

For Lina, becoming a citizen was a big deal.

“It’s huge. I’m very proud, very, extremely proud,” Lina said. “I mean, I even had, you know, my family had a barbecue for me. And they came and they buy me flowers. There was something big. It wasn’t just another day, my mom gave me flowers. We had the ceremony. I was very proud to be in the ceremony. My mom was there. It was just a very proud moment.”

Have your plans changed since becoming a citizen?

“Being able to vote, you know. Now I have a word. Now my word counts. My vote counts. And that’s huge, yes. So instead of you know, complaining that we can’t go out there and vote. And it will make a difference when one person can make a difference.”

“What if the circumstance was different,” asked Maribel. In the context of anti-immigrant fervor in the America of President Trump, what if Lina was in the situation her mother was in 20 years ago? “What would you do,” Maribel asked.

“You know, I super respect my mother for migrating in leaving everything behind to give me a better future. That’s huge. I could never thank her enough. I wished I you know, all my respects to people who migrate, not knowing if they’re going to be able to go back and see their parents, their brothers, their sisters, in my mom’s case, my brother, my two brothers. So when we migrate, it was just me and my mom. So just migrating to give, you know, your children a better future and leaving everything behind and not knowing that you’re, that you’re going to see your parents again, like the love for you, for your children. It’s beautiful. It’s beyond, I don’t even think I think I’m too selfish to do that. I don’t think I could if I had a child right now, I can honestly tell you, I don’t think I would migrate to the United States. Right? If we’re talking 20 years ago, and in without knowing if I was ever going to be able to see my mother or my brothers again, you know, and the fact that my mom did that for me. I owe her everything. That’s I mean, that is something that I super respect. But right now, right now, it’s we’re not, you know, I mean, I feel like it’s been crazy in different eras, and I would have, why not try, why not.”

Even though Lina struggled with imagining the difficult decisions her mother confronted more than 20 years ago, she has advice for those who live in the United States and are not citizens: go for it.

“People have done a lot. They’ve, you know, they’ve done other things that are beyond what’s going on right now. And they’ve moved mountains to for a better future. So yeah, you know, I mean, you know, why not (immigrate to the United States)? Why not? I don’t know, I would, first of all, I’m not a mother. So I don’t know, if I were, you know, the love for a child right now. Me being selfish, you know, single no children, I could tell you now, I wouldn’t leave my mom behind. But if I want to have your toddler and I understand why my mom did it, I think my mom would have done it (come to the United States today). Yes, it she would have still done it. 20 years ago, if the situation was like right now, because my mom would be like, ‘hey, let’s try it.’ You know, why not?

Sometimes Lina hears people say there is no difference between being a citizen of the US and not, but she asks that they reconsider their thinking.

“You know, I feel like a lot of people, they say, ‘no, no difference.’ Yeah, you know, ‘there’s no difference. Why? Why? Why do you become a citizen?’ Why? Because there is a difference,” Lina said emphatically. “Because when you get to retire at 65? Yeah, you’re rights are very different. So, go ahead. If you’ve been a resident for five years, don’t wait, don’t wait. I waited 10 years and I don’t know why I waited that long. You know, as soon as you hit your five years, go and submit that application. People, a lot of people, are afraid or you know, feel intimidated. Do a super simple, the easiest application I’ve ever done. The interview was smooth. It’s once you complete your application, and you know, that’s it. You just go, you answer a few questions then you’re good, be honest, and go for it,” Lina said.