DURANGO, Colo. — “I came to realize fairly quickly once I entered school that I was very different, primarily because I did not speak English,” Kassandra Carrasco-Gonzalez says.
Carrasco-Gonzalez is the Assistant Director for the Hispanic/Latinx and Gender and Sexuality Resource Centers at Fort Lewis College in Durango.
Born in Chihuahua, Mexico and brought to the United States when she was three years old, Carrasco-Gonzalez says language wasn’t the only barrier in her life.
“I fairly quickly also became aware of my immigration status,” she says.
Carrasco-Gonzalez was undocumented.
Colorado 'Dreamer' shares her story of immigration
A DACA recipient in Colorado shares her story of immigration and perseverance.
It wasn’t until President Barack Obama implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Carrasco-Gonzalez felt a sense of safety she had never felt before.
“All of a sudden, I was protected,” she explains. “All of a sudden I felt more comfortable and more confident.”
“Thanks to this program that not only allowed me to work and go to school, but it protected me from deportation,” Carrasco-Gonzalez says. “The DACA program usually has a two-year renewal process: you get granted two years, and then you have to reapply,” she explained, but the Trump administration has tried—unsuccessfully, so far—to reduce the renewal period to one year. “Can you imagine that?” Carrasco-Gonzalez says. “Having to reapply for protection, for work authorization, every single year? And having to pay the fees, the lawyer fees?”
Through all the troubles presented by the American immigration system, Carrasco-Gonzalez was still able to earn her degree. Her family had immigrated to Arizona, but she continued moving north and now lives in Colorado. She says her whole life has had a common theme of moving north.
When she was 22 years old, just after she earned her degree, Carrasco-Gonzalez decided to commemorate her perseverance with a tattoo. She promised herself that every year, she would get a tattoo to symbolize what she was feeling that year.
“This year, 2020, on my 26th birthday, I have chosen to get a monarch butterfly,” she says. “The monarch, if many of you do not know, they are part of a migration route that starts in Michoacán, Mexico. And so the monarch not only represents this essence of migration, but this essence of rebirth, adaptation. My life has been about adaptation. It has been about traveling, about adapting to the norms of the community I’m living in.”
Carrasco-Gonzalez added that the monarch also represents her growth in her career, where she works with students.
“A lot of us feel alone with this pandemic, perhaps because we’re obligated to quarantine, we’re obligated to be a little isolated,” she said. “But the strength of our community, the strength of our whole existence, is to persevere. And with this perseverance, I strive to really be able to make a difference even if it’s just with one individual. Even if it’s just with one student, because education is the ultimate gift you can really get. The knowledge that you receive—no one can take that away from you.”