Our Stories

Maria Nuno-Estrada, first-generation immigrant and Workers United member

Maria, SEIU worker, holding a sign that says "Tu Yo Somos America"

The American dream—an ethos that many aspire to, yet struggle to attain. For some, it is a basic hope of being able to sleep peacefully at night, awake in the morning, find opportunity to work, provide for our families, put food on the table, have access to electricity and running water, and ensure our children are protected and prepared for the future—simple needs that so many take for granted.

This was the American dream of one amazing immigrant woman: my mom, Paulina. Her courage, true grit, and story are an inspiration.

Paulina left Mexico as a teenager in search of a better future. She didn’t know the language when she arrived in the U.S., but didn’t let that stop her. Immediately, she began contributing to society, working in an assembly line at a factory here in Dallas, Texas that manufactured hair products for American households.

Over time, my mom raised children who would eventually become a teacher, a security officer, a speech pathologist, and a union labor leader. Now, her grandchildren strive to become doctors and dancers. This is our family’s American dream: the opportunity for progress and prosperity through the generations. Because of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, known as the Reagan Amnesty, both of my parents were granted legal status.

As a U.S.-born citizen, I am proud of my country, my heritage, my family, and my labor union, the Southwest Region of Workers United affiliated with SEIU. But while I have the privilege to be protected by the U.S. Constitution, I also know the terror with which people live, day-in and day-out. I can never shake the soul-crushing fear of my childhood when hearing in my community, “La migra, la migra, corrélé, corrélé, escóndete, la migra!

In such moments, what was once a lively, happy neighborhood transformed into total silence. As a first-generation child of immigrants, we continue to carry that deep-seated anger and rejection of our people in our souls—well into adulthood.

This is what drives me to stand up and fight for those who are not able to.