KARLA MARTINEZ/Coachella Unincorporated
While most students count down the days until winter break, I’ve come to dread the holiday season. That’s because I spend much of my vacation in the back seat of a car, traveling the 101 miles from Coachella, California to Mexicali, Baja California.
For the past three years, my mom, my sister, my brother and I have made the two-hour commute from our home in the eastern Coachella Valley to Mexico because of my stepfather’s legal status — he is unauthorized to be with us in the United States. Ever since my parents divorced eight years ago, it’s impossible for my siblings and I to ever celebrate Christmas in one place.
The craziness starts before Christmas, when my dad takes my siblings and I with him to our grandmother’s house in Coachella. We get to stay with my grandma and my dad until Christmas day. Then on Christmas Day, my dad drives my siblings and I to Calexico, where my mother is already waiting for us (my mother leaves for Mexicali much sooner than my siblings and I do). My mother then drives my siblings and I across the border to Mexicali where we stay until January 8. Then, my mom, my siblings and I pile back into the care to make the two-hour trip from Mexico back to Coachella.
Christmas is supposed to be a time when families get together, but our family has been spread out across two countries for the past three years. My sister and I talk about how we miss eating tamales together as a family, and we miss opening presents in only one home.
Over the years, my grandmother has grown tired of us being separated. She tells me her house feels empty when my siblings and I aren’t there. She said she hates that we have to be scattered during the holidays. For New Year’s Eve, my siblings and I have to call my grandmother since we cannot be with her in person.
My stepfather’s legal status doesn’t just affect our family during the holiday season. We’ve spent close to $10,000 since 2011 to support his legal process, and this year we sent in his
final fee waiver. Because my stepfather has a clean record, it’s frustrating that his case is still not resolved.
Every year, my mother tells us that someday our family will be together again. She said our first Christmas when my stepfather is back home will be filled with decorations and our own Christmas tree, and the whole family will finally be together in one place.
My siblings and I dream that day when the chaotic traveling will come to an end. But until then, we will keep traveling the 101 miles from Coachella to Mexicali.