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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And here's another voice in the immigration debate, a young voice. Esperanza Mendez knows what she's talking about.

Ms. ESPERANZA MENDEZ (Undocumented Teenager): My parents have three children: my sister, Patricia, my brother, and me. I was 4-years-old, Patricia was six and Armando was one. There were big risks in coming to the U.S. If we walked, we'd probably get lost. And babies have lots of needs; you have to feed them, change them, and put them to sleep.

Instead of the whole family traveling together, my parents decided it would be less difficult and safer, to take just my brother. I was scared, even though I didn't know what was going on. At 4-years-old, you just want to be attached to your parents, to be safe, and receive their love. But one day, I woke up and my parents were gone. I tried to find some explanations, but there were too many questions and no answers. I had to stay behind with my grandmother and my sister. My grandmother was the only mother I had.

Six years went by, my sister and I were going to Los Angeles to be with our parents. And I felt too feelings that can't be described. Just hearing those words, Los Angeles, made be excited at first. The reason I was so excited, was because I was going to see my parents for the first time since they had left us behind. I had no idea what my mom and dad will be like, because seeing a person in a picture is not the same as seeing them in real life. But then, on second thought, I was thinking so many bad things about my parents. I use to ask myself, why they had decided to leave us behind?

For me, going to L.A. was like coming back to life in another place. It was very different from where I had lived in Mexico. In Mexico, everybody knows their neighbors, who they are and where they are. Here in L.A., people seem afraid to talk to each other. Or may be they just didn't care. They just look concern with their own doings. I wanted to go back to Mexico. I thought about the things that I would have been doing if I were back home. And I also asked myself, what would my grandma be doing right now? Does she miss us? I felt like crying. I knew that I was not going back to Mexico and that I was going to stay here for some time. But crying wasn't going to get me there.

So I swallowed my tears and thought about what would happen next. I wait, still wishing, all the time, to go back.

CHADWICK: You can read all of Esperanza Mendez' story in the new book, Entering New Territory: Dreams for a New Los Angeles. It's essays, poems, and stories by students of the Humanitas program, at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles.

NPR's DAY TO DAY continues.

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