By Natalie Rodriguez
Former Berwyn local, Rosario Hernandez, lived in limbo since she was 7 years old. She lived as a Mexican undocumented immigrant. All of that has changed. She now has legal status and new hope as an immigrant.
Canada made that change possible.
Canada has made life easier for Mexican citizens. As of Dec. 1, 2016, Mexican citizens are able to visit Canada without a visa.
“The lifting of the visa requirement for Mexican citizens will strengthen Canada-Mexico ties and build momentum to expand trade, investment and tourism, strengthening people-to-people ties that will provide lasting benefits for both countries,” according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Hernandez moved to the small city of Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan in July. She believes that the lifting of the visa requirement has been beneficial.
“I think that it will reunite a lot of families as well as give Mexicans a sense of peace that they are welcomed by one of their northern neighbors,” said Hernandez. “ In due time I think it will be a growth for the Canadian economy when Mexican-owned businesses start up confidently throughout its cities and begin to prosper due to an inflow of visitors.”
Hernandez’s decision to move to Canada was not an easy one. While attending Morton West High School, she became aware of challenges caused by her undocumented status.
“I was in high school learning about how much work and grit goes into applying for college as an undocumented Latina woman without financial resources,” said Hernandez.
Regardless of the obstacles, in 2014, Hernandez began her college career at Dominican University double majoring in Mathematics and Biochemistry.
Despite her qualifications, she found it difficult to make her dreams come true.
“After being rejected for an internship at the Fermi lab due to my immigration status, I got closer to my decision to move here,” she said.
Her father already had left for Canada in 2011. He also lived undocumented in the United States but was granted permanent residency by the Canadian government under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). According to the IRCC, the program allows provinces to nominate qualified individuals for skilled labor to meet local market needs.
This invitation was extended to Hernandez’s family.
“Finally, five years after applying, the Canadian government offered each member of my family permanent residency,” she said. “I was divided between continuing the work for justice I had begun with my undocumented colleagues and thinking about myself and my future career in the sciences.”
Upon arriving in Canada, Hernandez said she immediately felt welcomed.
“Arriving at immigration the officer who attended us said ‘Congratulations, welcome to Canada’ to us — a family who lived in fear of immigration officers their whole lives,” she said.
Hernandez is now seeking to continue her college education in January and meanwhile works at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatchewan. She and her family continue to establish themselves in her province.
“Four of us obtained social security numbers, permanent residency cards, and passports within the month of being here,” she said. “Documents we had only dreamt of having in the states.”
The visa waiver for Mexican citizens has furthered her hopes for a successful future in Canada. It will be easier now for family members to visit. Instead of a visa, Mexican citizens need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) which costs just $7, Canadian, and is valid for up to five years. Most that are accepted into the country are allowed to stay six months.
The prospect of reuniting with family members this holiday season reassures Hernandez she made the right decision.
“All of my blood relatives are in Mexico. My grandparents, my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews,” she said. “I am excited about the reunions that are made possible now because of this new situation.”
Hernandez also believes that the lifting of the visa requirement will show Mexican citizens that they are welcomed and open new opportunities for both countries.
“I think this also gives Mexican citizens an affirmation of our worth. Showing the world that despite of the popular negative beliefs in the States, the rest of the world does not agree,” she said. “But I definitely think it will give confidence and open many doors for Mexican and Canadian entrepreneurs as well as continue to foster the respect that Mexicans and Canadians have for one another’s culture.”
Despite her newfound legal status in Canada, Hernandez said she will always feel like a part of the undocumented community.
“It has been my reality since I was 7 years old. I will always identify with the undocumented, immigrant minorities,” she said. “I am proud and have been unafraid since I discovered at Dominican that I was not alone.”