Victor Morente was born on January 17, 1990, in Zacualpa, Quiche, Guatemala. He grew up in an impoverished neighborhood, where the community suffered from lack of food and clean water. Victor remembers the people living in extreme poverty, in houses built of Adobe mud, with no cars.
Due to the civil war and genocide in Guatemala at the time, Victor’s mother fled the country and crossed over the border as an undocumented immigrant in 1994. She was forced to leave Victor behind with one of his aunts because he was too young to accompany her. At the age of six Victor finally embarked on his journey to the United States. He crossed The Rio Grande on a raft, traveled through Mexico, and walked the deserts of Texas. After finally reaching an airport in Texas he was able to take a plane to Providence, Rhode Island.
Growing up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in the Southside of Providence with many other minorities, Victor felt welcomed. He was an excellent student, who put a lot of time and effort into his schoolwork. In high school however, Victor was told that his dream of going to college would not be possible because he was an undocumented immigrant. He became disillusioned and stopped doing his schoolwork.
Two years after graduating high school, Victor and his family finally received a phone call from their attorney who informed that they had a court date scheduled at the Boston Immigration Court based on their immigration application for asylum protection. When the court date finally came, his mother was extremely nervous, while Victor remained calm and confident.
After 16 years of waiting, Victor and his mother finally were granted legal permanent residency. He believes the struggle he went through from being an undocumented immigrant motivated him. “And that’s why I am even more driven now because for a long time they told me I shouldn’t even be here right now.” Victor was determined more than ever to pursue his dream of going to college and continue to work hard to become successful.
After making a trip back to Guatemala with his family last summer, Victor saw how Guatemalans struggled to put dinner on the table for their families and how the government was not protecting its citizens. This only motivated Victor further, because he saw where he came from and how privileged he is today to have the opportunities that he does in United States.
“If you have initiative, it doesn’t matter where you are from, you can definitely become successful.”
Victor attended the Community College of Rhode Island part time while he was undocumented, and then transferred to Rhode Island College after his legal situation was resolved. He is currently a senior at Rhode Island College where he is majoring in Political Science and Public Administration, while also minoring in International Nongovernmental Organizations. He is a member of the National Political Science Honor Society, also serves as the President of the Programming event board on campus, and is currently interning at the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office.
He hopes to attend law school with the goal of one day becoming an immigration lawyer. Just as he received assistance throughout his journey, he hopes to be able to help other immigrants toward their path to citizenship. It was for that reason that he also interned at Dorcas International Institute this past summer in the Feinstein Center for Citizenship & Immigration.
“I feel that if you get help from someone, it’s your duty to give even more back.”
Victor resides in Providence with his mother and brothers. He is a strong believer in the importance of recognizing the individual contributions of Rhode Islanders from all cultures and backgrounds, and that stories like his must be shared more often.
“I was so afraid of what people used to think about me, but why not tell them? In high school they always made jokes about going to your home country, and being a wetback, and I remember those jokes. For a long time it was shameful, but now there needs to be more stories about these things.”
Written and compiled by Evita Iiskola and Andrew Hopkins