Our heritage determines a great part of our being: who we are, what we look like, and, often, how we feel. For Selena Gomez her diverse past has enriched her journey. In 1975, members of Gomez’s family immigrated to the US from Mexico, crossing the border hidden in the back of a truck. Their history spurred her in her role as producer of Netflix documentary Living Undocumented, which follows eight undocumented migrant families, revealing the high cost many pay to try and live the American dream. Here, she exclusively shares her story…
“I decided to work on Living Undocumented because I wanted to be a voice for people who can’t or who are terrified to speak about it. It was all so personal to me. My own grandparents are immigrants and made the decision to come to the US. Through their decision, I have ultimately been given the life that I have, and listening to all these stories made me feel incredibly blessed for the chance I had.
The stories from each family hit me emotionally. We have all read the headlines on immigration – but these are people with stories, not headlines. It was time to listen to their complex tales and to how these people’s lives are being affected by immigration policies. Without awareness, we can’t see change, and my biggest hope in all this is that we do get to see change.
Obviously, I was born in the US, but I identify as a Mexican-American woman and am incredibly proud to be both. My family chose to leave Mexico to pursue the American dream. In the 1970s, my aunt crossed the border hidden in the back of a truck. My grandparents followed, and my father was born in the US. If they hadn’t chosen to make this country their home, things would have been very different for me. Mexico will always be Mexico, and there are huge Mexican communities in the US but it must have been hard for my grandparents, who left their home.
It’s important to remember our country was formed by those who came from other countries
My thoughts on life in Donald Trump’s America? I have said that I don’t claim to be an expert and I understand that there have to be rules and regulations, but we have to do better than what we are doing – we simply have to. I hope we can still offer the American dream. I hope we can still offer people a better life. It’s so important to remember our country was formed by those who came from other countries.
How we deal with immigration as a country speaks about how much compassion and empathy we have as a country. One thing I have seen is that immigration goes beyond politics and political debates – it’s a human issue. Immigration is a complex topic and not one that is going to be solved in one day. One of the biggest things I have learned is that these people need and deserve to be listened to. They are not a statistic – they are people with real stories – and I would make sure that happened.
It is heartbreaking for so many being deported, as the US is their home. The place they work, they live, where their families and friends are. In many cases they are being sent back to a country they haven’t been to for many years and where they might not have anything anymore.
I want these immigrants and refugees to know that there are people fighting for them, there are people who will listen to them, and there are those who are ready to fight for change. Through the documentary I learned that people are truly inspiring. These families have so much going on in their lives, yet they still find the strength to keep going.
We know that life is not always going to be simple – that is why it is so important to surround yourselves with people who you know you can trust. You are who you surround yourself with; that is why we must surround ourselves with people who will lift us up when we need it.”
Originally published in the April 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia