Faces of Immigration

Amnesty changes life and future

Omar Xicotencatl Ocon was raised in El Paso, Texas, and graduated from Cathedral High School in 1991. He always knew his parents were immigrants from Mexico, but what he didn’t know was that he was born in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and was in the country illegally.

Ocon is now a permanent legal resident. His parents were eligible for and took advantage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted amnesty to certain undocumented immigrates.

“I looked at my brother, and we looked at each other — I don’t think we were born here, man.”

The family’s immigration status was something that was not talked about much.

Omar Xicotencatl Ocon in his workshop. He dreams of one day having his own pool cleaning business. (Photo by Jared Bjarnason/Kokopelli)

“They never spoke about it, kind of like an unspoken thing, you know, you don’t want to bring it up,” Ocon said.

As a child, he learned English and his parents instilled the importance of school and academic success. “America stands for A,” Ocon’s parents told their children.

One day, during a high school class, Ocon was told his parents were there to pick him and his brother up. He thought maybe they had a dentist appointment, but as it turned out they went to the immigration office.

“I looked at my brother, and we looked at each other — I don’t think we were born here, man,” Ocon said.

When asked about the uncertain status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Ocon said he can hear his father’s voice saying, “I told you so.” His father advised him never to get in trouble with the law because you never know how the system is going to change.

Nowadays, Ocon works for a telemarketing company as well as cleaning pools. He hopes to run his own pool business in the near future.

“The dream is to build the business… To say that I’m a business owner, to me, that is the dream,” Ocon said.

 

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