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The Fourth of July is a time for family, fireworks, picnics, and pies.But it's also a time when many reflect on what it means to be an American.Here at Michigan Radio, we asked immigrants across Michigan what America means to them. Here are some of their stories.

Undocumented teen stays in US for son, but 'home' remains in Mexico

Christian Haugen

In honor of July 4th, we asked immigrants across Michigan what America means to them. A young woman from Mexico shared her story with us.

For some, the journey of getting to America can be just as challenging as starting a new life in the country.

“We walked here, basically,” a young woman from Mexico told us. “My mom brought me and my brother here when I was eight.”

“We crossed the border... and we just walked for hours and hours.”

Today, the 17-year-old lives at the Salvation Army’s Teen Parent Center in Grand Rapids.The Salvation Army asked us not to use her name, or the name of her one-year-old son.

She is one of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States under the deferred action immigration program approved by President Barack Obama last year.


Though she's optimistic about her son's life here in the States, the young woman didn't think she'd ever call America "home."

“[My son]’s what made me stay in the U.S.,” she said. “If I never got pregnant, I would’ve left with my mom to Mexico. But having a kid, I wasn’t going to be able to do it over there.”

She explained that raising a child in Mexico is more difficult than it is here in Michigan.

“It’s dangerous [in Mexico]. I don’t see a good future for him over there.”

Though she’s optimistic about her son’s life here in the States, the young woman didn’t think she’d ever call America “home.”

“There’s so much you can accomplish here,” she said.

But her respect for the history and culture of her native country makes it difficult for her to feel like she could ever stop thinking of herself as a Mexican first. 

“I don’t think I’ll ever call myself an American.”


Listen to full interview audio above. 


Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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