Immigrant Girl

by Ann Carranza

Cheeky Baby

"Cheeky Baby" photo by Lydia Selk

She was 14, this bright girl
with no promise in her future

Eyes dark and hair, too

Her captivating smile
darts from
a two-dimensional photo
the first time I see her face.

School, oh she wants school.
School in Mexico?
far outside the realm of
financial reality
School, her father says, is wasted on girls—they
only get married.

My head goes up in flames as
I negate that statement
in strong terms and loud
convincing no one but myself

but she comes, instead
this immigrant girl. Her path dangerous
her mother afraid;
But now she’s here, here
we breathe sighs of relief.

The first week of junior high
they move her to the high school
ready and eager for higher learning.

And school is challenging.
Incomprehensible language
with rules that change
in mysterious ways.

You try algebra
in a foreign language
and see how well you do.

She graduates with
bright plans of a college
then fate intervenes with
out-of-state student fees and tuition

Despite 10-hours days and backbreaking
work; her father, now convinced, cannot
spare the money for college

She becomes a CNA
with decent pay
but still she lives in the shadows
of fear of deportation—as
she takes care
of your parents and mine
in the last days of their lives.

The promise of that mica
that precious piece of plastic
that would give her permission to live without fear
and to embrace
the dream
outside the shadows remains in the mists of ether.

Ah, papers,
the papers, the papers, the papers

The System—another
with rules that change
in mysterious ways and
with passing time.

Living without
fear—a most tenuous concept
and only
an allusion to,
an illusion of
the American dream.

The price of peace an isolated promise
in a visa held captive
by yearly quotas
and an unending backlist.

They say—those
who do not know—they say
come here legally

never knowing
that an immigrant girl could die
waiting to do it

She counts the years
in the demise
of babies—brother, cousin, cousin—
lost to poverty.

Now she counts the years
waiting in limbo
14 years—waiting as long as her age
when she arrived…
15 years, 16, 17…

She is trying to do it right.

Her daughters,
her partner—also a limbo-liver—
to be unafraid.

The American


just outside her grasp.

Ann Carranza is a freelance writer, blogger and photographer.  She lives in Healdsburg with husband, Leonel, younger son, Travis, and cockatiel, Luna.  When she’s not writing, she can be found chasing things that flit, fly and run with her camera. Learn more about Ann at: and

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