All Brandon wanted to do was see his mother again. He had been two years old when she left Guatemala for the United States to support the family. He was placed in the care of family members – aunts, uncles, grandparents – throughout their ten years of separation – he never lacking loving care. “Each uncle was a father to me, every aunt, a mother,” he said. But he could not stop thinking about his mother. Everything would be better and make sense if he could be with her again. She sent pictures and they talked on the phone regularly, but it was never enough. Brandon’s father had died when he was one year old while migrating to the U.S.
Despite the loving care his family members provided, he said, “I never really felt comfortable. I was looking for something I couldn’t find.”
When he was 12 years old, it was decided that he would go the United States to reunite with his mother. Although he never had a relationship with her, Brandon could think of nothing but seeing her again. “I was very happy,” he said.
In the ten years since she last saw Brandon, Brandon’s mother had remarried and had two children – Brandon’s half siblings. Brandon didn’t think of these changed circumstances either. It would all be ok when he was back with his mother.
The journey was hard but Brandon travelled with human smugglers who knew the way. Some parts were scary, he said. Brandon also traveled with a 7-year-old boy – his mother and the boy’s mother were friends. Brandon became very close to the boy during the trip.
Brandon made it to New York City, where his mother, stepfather, and half siblings were waiting for him. “I saw my mom right away,” he said as the van he had been travelling in pulled up to the meeting point. “She came running to me; she was crying.” I met my stepfather and my brother and sister for the first time. But I realized that I didn’t quite fit in.”
Despite or perhaps because of all his expectations, Brandon’s relationship with his mother did not turn out as planned. “All I ever wanted was to be with her, but it’s taking a long time to get to know her. I wasn’t expecting that.
“It’s sort of like I’m baby. Or a 6-year-old and she’s trying to get to know me, even though I’m 17 now. We have learned a lot from each other. Now we understand each other more but it’s still a little hard.”
Because of the challenges he was facing at home, school in the United States was hard for Brandon. He was happiest playing soccer. Relations with his mother became more difficult because he was doing poorly in school.
Brandon points to the film- I LEARN AMERICA– as a turning point in his life. “Being part of the film has made me feel that I can be something in this country; that people like me have the power to make a difference if we want to. I know I can make a difference,” he said. “Being here opened my eyes to what I’m capable of doing.”
And Brandon wants to do many things.
“I want to find ways I can help people be proud of who they are and where they came from,” he said. “I want to help kids who are afraid because they are immigrants, are afraid to go to college, or even to finish high school.”
Brandon also wants to study architecture. “Going to school and all the opportunities here – it has changed me. I found out that I like math and physics,” he said. “Everything is like a big open door.” This year – his senior year – he worked with an architecture company that mentors young people and was inspired to learn more. Brandon is going to New York City College of Technology in the fall. “I want to do my best. I want to start working.” His dream is to start out designing small houses and eventually work his way up to big commercial buildings.
Brandon said he is grateful to the filmmakers and to KIND and Nixon Peabody for working to help him. “I didn’t know about KIND and I was very happy when I learned that they could help me. My pro bono attorney Alexis [Anzelone] has helped me and family so much. I am very thankful to them.”