A nation of immigrants: students and staff share their journeys

Liz Malone, Staff Writer

In the Tony Award winning musical “Hamilton,” a key theme is how powerful immigrants are since the show focuses on founding father and Caribbean immigrant Alexander Hamilton. One of the most captivating lines from the show refers to this central idea: “Immigrants, we get the job done.”

Bear Creek High School also reflects the impact of immigrants as students from many different cultures and ethnicities embrace diversity and their unique traditions during International Rally. Not only do students hail from the different parts of the world, but members of their families also immigrated for the sake of their children’s futures.

Junior Juliette Medrano shares the story on how her father came to the United States.

Julio Medrano came from El Salvador, where civil war pillaged the country throughout the 1980s. When Medrano’s father was 13 years old, he was on a bus heading for work when suddenly soldiers from the military stopped the bus and demanded all of the boys jailed so they would be forced to join the army. Fortunately, Medrano’s father had connections in the military and he was able to save his son from a militia trap.

From there, Medrano’s father sent him to Mexico under a visa when he was 14. There he had kids that assisted him in illegally hopping the fence on the border. After that, he went to Calexico, which is in the southern part of California near the border of Mexico; he then began travelling from city to city for work and became a naturalized citizen at the age of 19 due to Pres. Ronald Reagan’s Amnesty Program.

Like Medrano, junior Jessica Villalobos’s father emigrated from Latin America. At the age of 14, Javier Villalobos left his family to enter the U.S. illegally for a better life. He came to California with help from a “coyote,” a person who smuggles people across the Mexican border. He and some others traveled through the desert with only a can of beans and a few blankets. When he arrived he found employment washing cars. Years later, he met his wife who motivated him to apply for amnesty. He currently has a Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) card and is planning to take his citizenship exam soon.

“My dad was a lucky person who made it through, and he did it for family,” Villalobos said. “He’s not bad. He’s not a threat to the U.S.”

Junior Alannise Rodriguez says her journey to the United States with her mother and stepdad was also difficult. Rodriguez spent the first third of her life living in Mexico and recalls how lovely her hometown was with constant parties and a large connection within the community; still, Rodriguez’s mother wanted more for her daughter.

“My mom didn’t see a very bright future for me [in Mexico],” Rodriguez said when describing how her mother did not approve of the education in Mexico. “She wanted a better future for me, so that’s what made her decide to move here.”

As a result, at the age of six, Rodriguez moved to the U.S. with her mom and stepdad with a visa and at the age of 13 she received her residency. Since then she’s been living in Stockton.

Spanish teacher Andres Gil says that his decision to come to the United States was fate. After attending community college in his hometown in Argentina, Gil’s parents allowed him to travel. Looking at brochures one day, he decided to go to San Francisco with a student visa and attend community college for a semester in hopes of working on his English skills to complement his business major.

One day, while visiting with some friends in Stockton, he and his friends had decided to take a trip to Yosemite, where he met the love of his life, Jennifer. He decided to live in California for an extra semester; after that, he and his future wife moved to Argentina for a year before returning to Stockton where Gil began studying for his master’s degree and teaching credential at the University of the Pacific. In that time, he applied for his citizenship and in 2002 he began teaching at Bear Creek.

“The whole situation is very bizarre,” Gil said referring to his immigration story. “It’s just telling you how many different paths there are set out for you. If I hadn’t gone to Yosemite, I would probably still be in Argentina with a totally different life.”