Student shares story of personal journey to America

Michelle Ledesma, Staff Writer

Madison College student Gilberto Osuna-Leon was 3 years old when he and his family arrived to the United States from Mazatlán, Sinaloa. The decision to move transpired when Osuna-Leons’ 16-year-old brother, Javier decided he wanted to move in what Osuna-Leon described as “the motivation to experience the American Dream.”

The family applied for visas to follow Javier and his pursuit of the American Dream to Los Angeles, California.

Despite his age at the time, Osuna-Leon still remembers some things about California. His first memory was his trip to Disneyland and his traumatic meeting with Mickey Mouse.

“I was a crybaby,” Osuna-Leon laughed. Although Osuna-Leon says his parents “felt more at home because of the diverse amount of people and the large concentration of Mexican Americans” their experience in Los Angeles was short-lived before deciding to move to Wisconsin.

“Immediately we saw that it was really unstable to live there because it was very overpopulated and immigration was very strict there,” he recalls.

Leaving some family in California, they continued their journey to Madison where they have now been settled for about 18 years. Osuna-Leon experienced all of his school career in Madison.

“I’m very grateful for my education because I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten to UW Madison without the quality of education that I got” Osuna-Leon said. Expanding about some of his struggles in school environments. “I’ve always been lacking that cultural perspective, when it comes to my education.”

Osuna-Leon said he found out he was undocumented when he was in middle school and didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until high school that he said he truly realized the way being undocumented actually affected him.

“I wanted to access higher education obviously. I wanted to become a doctor and just seeing the things that I was unable to access like FAFSA, internships, scholarships, some opportunities even at my school – like studying abroad. I couldn’t access those things and I immediately saw the disparity that I was facing.”

Osuna-Leon was able to get protection under a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals also known as DACA.

“It wasn’t until I got DACA that I was able to work,” he said. Osuna-Leon was able to find an environment he felt comfortable in at Centro Hispano. Osuna-Leon was one of the 8 people featured in the Immigrant Journeys from South of The Border Exhibition at the Truax Campus in November.

Each of the large posters in the display had a picture of the person it was about along with a paragraph of their immigration story. Osuna- Leon came in contact with Centro Hispano in high school when his friend, Rafael invited him to an event there.

“The purpose of this group was basically to expose students throughout Dane County to their culture, to political activism, social justice, mental health topics. More things like that, that you don’t see in your public education,” he said. The experience impacted Osuna-Leon so positively that he’s been involved with them since. “I have a job with them now.”

Earlier this year, Osuna-Leon took a trip to Los Angeles where he was able to meet with his extended family.

“They have always had the idea to move to Madison, Wisconsin and live comfortably here and see a new world,” Osuna-Leon said about his immediate family. “Tenian eso en mente (had that in mind) when they moved here and they kind of left all ties.”

When he visited his extended family in Los Angeles, he was able to connect the communication bridge between both sides of his families.

“It took me going alone to establish that tie,” he said.

Now Osuna-Leon has plans on moving to California next year in the fall. He is currently studying political Science, getting a certificate in Chicano-Latino studies, and studying pre-medicine to become a physician.

“I’ve decided to take two years off before entering med school for the sake of my sanity,” he said.

Osuna-Leon says his inspiration for going into medicine was due to having to grow up without health insurance.

“When I would go to physicals it would cost a crazy amount of money,” he recalls. As a physician he hopes “to be able to address disparities in the immigrant and especially undocumented community.”