Dating While Undocumented: Words by Yanina


He swept into my life on a summer day. Or maybe I into his.

We never called it dating. We “just met and became inseparable ever since, and that’s it.”

What we do not mention is that inseparable is a subjective word when you are a single mom living in Fredericksburg Virginia and he lives in Washington, DC. We spent as many weekends together as possible, spoke on the phone every night like teenagers and we were super corny in social media. Like many sensible adults our age in long distance relationships, we low-key kept an open minded relationship.

It was easy to lie to him. I lied to everyone about my legal status at that point in time.

Before the DREAM Act, our modus operandi was to eliminate traces of an accent, hide our nationality and cultural pride and assimilate into American culture.

The key was to pretend to be no different from any other American child, the fear of someone holding deportation against you is real.  “Living under the radar” makes you a grade-A liar: you come up with excuses as to why you cannot drive, or go on that senior class trip or get a beer at the bar.

Most people would be surprised how many people they’ve come in contact with daily that are not documented.

He did not suspect anything and I did not expect to become so involved that I’d have to tell the truth.

I found myself floating through a field one fall afternoon, he asked to go steady.

Smiley face response sent and happiness quickly became terror.

I send a text: “I need to tell you something about me that I should have before we fell in love with each other.”

Him: “omg what is it? :(“

As the sun goes down and a chill sets in, my phone dies before I can send a long message explaining that we should talk in person.

I run through UMW campus back to my apartment and waited for the longest I ever have waited for my phone to be charged.

Phone anxiety be damned I called him. Hi is all I can mumble “What’s wrong? just tell me please, nothing is going to change the way I feel, for real.” I am silent, paralyzed. “is it like an std? cus I don’t care. I love you.” I laugh hard, then cry and explain to him my legal status.

He never even mentions the fact that I lied to him for so long. I am grateful for that.

We married downtown Fredericksburg a day before my passport expired a few days before the winter solstice. We got junk food afterward the I do’s, all with enough time to pick up our kid from the bus.

We have been inseparable ever since!

Yanina is a Uruguayan painter, sometimes storyteller and activist. She owns an art gallery and diy music venue where the main focus is to represent artists of color, undocumented, queer, and women.


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Categories: Dating While Undocumented

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7 replies

  1. Why would it be so difficult to share that? Being undocumented is a great lesson of life, while many complain and cannot longer wait to become permanent residents and eventually citizens, others embrace it and learn how to live with it. Now, I am not saying that I want to remain undocumented the rest of my life, but what I am saying is that it is a life experience or survival, creativity, taking risks, courage, living on “the skinny branches”. Rather than Victimize ourselves for living this life, it shows Leadership, courage and passion for life.

    Undocumented for 15 yrs,

    • What a great way to describe exactly what I feel about being undocumented Jorge.
      But I didn’t know that going back when I was 19, not thinking what being undocumented would be indeed a life changing for me. Thinking back I would say that I am the strong person I am because of these experience and I also hope one day become a citizen.

      Undocumented for 16 yrs

      • Nilda,
        There are things that are in our circle of influence and can be changed. However those circumstances that are not in our circle of influence should not stress us. I learned to accept them, and learn more about how to live with them. Again, by no means I am saying not to do anything, yes, participate on the efforts to change the big picture, but at the same time learn how to embrace that challenge and live with it. Remember, you are a champion!


    • Hi I am currently an high school senior and i’m graduating in June. I find myself completely lost with no idea about what I will do after I cross that stage. I’v been living undocumented for almost 5 years now and I still haven’t learned how to embrace it yet. I see in your comment that you’ve been undocumented for 15 yrs, I just wanted to ask you if there is any advice you could me on how to live through and embrace the situation and what steps I should take towards completing my education.

      Undocumented for 4 yrs and 6 mths

      • Hi, I noticed you never got a response so I thought I would respond. I am undocumented too and have been for a few years. I’m graduating in 11 days and I hope you made good decisions about where you’re going next. I hope you applied to colleges despite the fear and uncertainty and I hope you looked hard for scholarships.
        I had a great counselor that encouraged me so j applied to my reach schools despite my status. I also applied to numerous scholarships and was honest about being undocumented and j think that truly helped because I think scholarship committees are sympathetic to these kinds of situations.
        I’m going to my top choice with a good number of scholarships and I’m rhankful for that. So just wanted to encourage you and anyone reading this. Just persevere and don’t let your status limit you. Apply to the school you want to go to unless you know for sure that that school is unwelcoming.
        Be honest with your school counselor if you think you can trust them because they can be very instrumental.
        Look for scholarships ALL the time and apply apply.
        Work 10 times harder than your peers because you just have to.
        Do all these but most importantly, do not let your undocumented status limit you.
        Work on yourself now so that in the future when you get your paperwork in line, you have a good foundation to start your career.
        That’s all!
        Wish you the best of luck!

        • Thank you so much. You don’t know how much your reply means to me. I was so discouraged. I applied to my dream school I got accepted and I enrolled. I applied to a few scholarships and I ‘m still waiting for the results. However, I find myself thinking about what I would do if I don’t get the scholarships. But it helps to know that I’m not the only one out there and there are others who are finding resources and it helps me to stay positive and to remember that things will get better. Again thank you for your reply and Congrats!!!! I’m graduating in 12 days!!


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