When I Was a Dreamer


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Perspective from an Illegal & Deported Immigrant Kid

Written by Renae Bruce-Miller, 7 Minute Read
​Just after my 9th birthday in April of of 1986, I was summoned by my father to the veranda of our quite home on the outskirts of Spanish Town, Jamaica.
He started the conversation by asking me, how I felt about going overseas-to America.
I held my breath in silence and allowed him to speak his peace.
He proceeded to explain to me, that my mother in the United States had “Sent for me”.
Upon fielding my forthcoming protest to this idea of traveling without him-by plane of all things; he further explained the politics of my Visa- issued four years prior, its 5 year life  would expire shortly, and if it was not used I may never get it back, which defeated any feeble excuse I could have come up with.
The argument was already settled before he had told me what he was planning.
I sat quietly and listened because I knew I had nothing to gain by arguing.
“You will be gone for 10 days-just to use the Visa and come back.”
I knew something was amiss.
I bowed my head and let the tears run down my face, wetting my pants.
“No Worry Man!” -he tried to console me, but my emotions had overcome me.
He had no idea why I was crying.
A woman I had not seen or heard from for 2 whole years, whom was not spoken about or mentioned, whom I learned to get along without; whom had left me to die while breathing without saying goodbye. A woman who lived in my fading memory and in the sound of every clacking heel on the pavement, every grating of the gate, every sound of the wind, every scent of perfume-had “Sent for me.”
Only I did not want to go, because I wanted her to come back so that we could be a family again.
I was crying because I had accepted her absence as reality.
2 Weeks later, I was on a plane from Kingston to Miami with a connecting flight in Montego Bay.
From my window seat on Air Jamaica, I could see my father on the waving gallery, he was wearing  the outfit I picked out for him so that I could tell him apart from the other people.
-Brown trousers and light blue shirt with the butterflies on it stuck out quite nicely.
He clung to the chain linked fence, while I waved excitedly from the window of the Aircraft.
Excitement had overcome fear and I was ready for my vacation.
I was instructed, not to get off the plane in Montego Bay and  to give the name of Carmen Grant at the Airport when the plane arrived in Miami.
I told the immigration officer what the adults told me, I was coming to stay 10 days and upon that I was given entry into the United States.
My mother was waiting for me on the other side, as beautiful as she had ever been, my heart burst with joy and pain at the same time.
It was only the very next day after my arrival in the United States did I realize that I was “Sent For” only to be a babysitter to my little brother whom my mother had conceived with another man and became her Scarlet letter which destroyed her marriage to my father.
I wanted to go home but 10 days had come before it was clear to me; I was not going anywhere.
My requests to write my father was ignored, and my insistence about the matter was met with vitriol, rage and ridicule.
The next 3 1/2 years saw me physically, emotionally and psychologically abused at the hands of my mother who was an illegal immigrant too and therefore telling anyone what was happening to me was simply not an option for me.
The America I had seen on T.V. was not my America.
As a formality to prevent the authorities from visiting her home, my mother enrolled me into Coconut Grove Elementary in Miami between 1986-1987.
In the Bronx in the Fall of 1987; P.S. 78.
In January of 1988; P.S. 138 in Harlem, where I graduated the 5th grade.
In the Fall of 1988, I returned to the Bronx at P.S. 89, where I graduated the 6th grade under the name of Renee Miller. 
Despite being so poorly treated by my Mother, where not even clothing was provided for me to wear to school and being frequently beaten with wire hangers, extension cords and broomsticks as she projected her hatred for my father upon me; I still felt that I could be someone.
I felt that I had worth and I could plan a future and dream.
I felt that way because of the exposure to teachers like Ellen Ross at P.S. 89 and other outstanding teachers, one of whom was an African-American teacher in Harlem; I forgot her name, but lets call her “Ms. Green” who endowed me with the American Dream.
At P.S. 138 in Harlem, during the height of the crack epidemic when I lived in the Wagner Houses with my Grand Aunt, Tryphena Vernon-this African American teacher, deliberately and pointedly made herself a source of light in the dark hole that was my life.
She told us clearly that she was not going to lose us to the streets, she instilled in her students the importance of staying away from drugs and anyone in that lifestyle.
She drilled into our heads that our graduation song “Aint No Stopping Us Now” by Mcfadden and Whitehead was our anthem for life. 
“Ms. Green” made me feel like I was someone, that I had a responsibility to become successful and I could be anyone or anything; there was no limit to my abilities, nothing was in my way. 
Though up until that point I had considered myself a serious Marine Biologist; it was from this teacher that I felt I could be anything.
It was from Peter Jennings on the nightly news, that I knew what that could be; between them both I saw my life clearly.
I graduated the 5th Grade with respectable grades and took my steely fortitude into the 6th Grade in a New School in the Bronx, where under Ellen Ross, my writing seed found roots.
Ms. Ross as a white woman in the tree-lined Pelham section of the Bronx, was not as militant as Ms. Green in the concrete jungles of Harlem, but she was no less determined to see me push myself to live up to my best potential. 
Under her firm hand, I picked up awards and recommendations but they were all earned, only after being consistently overlooked in favor of White or Latin students.
Notwithstanding, she was not prepared for my undeniable perseverance and ultimately saw things my way. 
I wanted to be someone, and she was going to help me whether she liked it or not.
Despite the cruelties of a frustrated illegal mother at home, being an illegal Alien myself and no idea how I was going to do it; I had a dream, I wanted to be somebody, Mrs. Ross saw that in me and helped me wherever she could.
I had hope in my heart and a plan in my head.
All I had to do was keep working hard at my schoolwork-she said.
After graduating the 6th Grade in 1989, my mother no longer had any purpose for me.
My little brother would be returned to his father in Miami and she would be moving into High Point Hospital in Westchester County, N.Y.
I had also reported to her that her boyfriend attempted to fondle me, after which I received a beating that left me bloodied and swollen.
On July 2nd 1989; I was shipped back to Jamaica in true Narcissistic Discard, without a letter or a note to my Father who had no idea of my whereabouts for almost 4 years.
Returning to Jamaica was a shock upon the senses to say the least.
Where laundry took 1 hour of my life every week in New York, it now consumed almost 4 hours a week, because I went from washing machines, to washing by hand and drying my clothes on the line in the hot sun.
My American outlook towards Academia as my priority was replaced with cultural domestication as a necessity for women and girls.
Though Wolmer’s High School for Girls is rated as one of the oldest and best Schools in the New World; they had no computers, a tool I had become accustomed to in the Public Classrooms in New York; A tool that was instrumental in my scholastic development.
Furthermore, I had to wait 2 years to get into the 9th grade before typing made it’s way onto my sylla
bus and then, it was only a 1 hour class once a week.
There were no computers-anywhere, except in the conclave of some elite or foreign offices.
My access to unlimited books within walking distance at the Library on GunHill Road in the Bronx, was replaced with one scantily furnished library with books that had not been replenished since 1962.
My subway and convenient bus system, was replaced with an unreliable and unpredictable private run enterprise that got you there-when it got there.
My interest in Marine Biology was dashed because though Jamaica is an Island, there were simply no facilities to foster such ambitions.
I was also not prepared for the culture clash in any way at all.
I was not prepared that I was to be treated as an inferior because I had come from the United States and American children were seen as rude, undisciplined and academically inept, because everything was done by Multiple Choice.
Though I had not done anything in particular, I was singled out by teachers for either ridicule or an example of undesirable qualities.
Surviving in the Jamaican environment at that time was particularly hostile to me as a girl.
For Example:
Sexual predation, became a part of my consciousness in Jamaica, which was counter intuitive to the common belief that American girls were hyper sexualized.
In America, I had never been approached on the streets for sex and if I was; the individual would be put in cuffs.
Not so outside of America.
People outside of the United States, do not realize that because America women and girls are exposed to sex on television and in music; does not mean that the culture at large is permissive to sexual assault as a right of passage, as I have found to be the case in some Third-World countries like Jamaica. 
Personally, people assumed things about my sexual activity and brutally gossiped about me, not just that my body had developed into that of a woman with larger breasts than the average 12 year old-(Thanks growth hormone in American Milk!); but also because my accent was American-the assumption was that American girls were easier to have sex with-as portrayed on television. 
I did not attend church regularly, I did not see myself as a christian and was never christened or baptized as religion did not play as central a role in America as it did in Jamaica and this was another source of my persecution in a culture that has more church per square mile than anywhere else in the world. 
I was dragged between the teeth of women and spat out as an unpalatable and undesirable person.
The beastliness of Jamaican men did not stop at daily leering and jeering but also being fondled and stroked or otherwise pressed upon with their genitals in the bus on my way to school.
As a person who knew better through my exposure in America, I spoke up LOUDLY and was often ridiculed by other passengers; outside of that one time, when the bus conductor stopped the bus and put out the offending perpetrator in the middle of the highway; after slapping him about the head.
I found Jamaica to have a predisposition to sexual force which resulted in an attempted rape at the age of 13 and then a completed rape by the same perpetrator at the age of 14.
With no protective laws for abortion, even in rape-I had no choice but to carry the resulting pregnancy into a society that had no Social Services, no safety net, a wanting Family Court system to prosecute father of said child and no support from anywhere.
My life was brutal.
It has been 20 years since I clawed my way out of Jamaica with my daughter, and worked hard to become an American Citizen. 
As a person who was commonly viewed as a “Deportee” in Jamaica,  between the ages of 12-20; I must add my voice to the growing chorus of men and women seeking to protect the Dreamers (Children who entered the United States Illegally.)
Americans will lose so much hope, value and a blossoming future if they send the Dreamers back to countries that can neither receive them or will cause them inhumane sufferings as I endured.
Dreamers belong to America, because this is truly the place where dreams are allowed to be a reality; shipping them away is shipping away America.

Thanks for reading.

Contact: RenaeBM@gmail.com
Twitter @VictimWarfare.com
My E-book


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