Estela Juarez was just 11 years old when her words first made a resounding noise across the nation.
When Juarez was eight, her mother, Alejandra, was deported to Mexico. Juarez was confused. She was angry. And she wanted her mom back. So, she began writing letters to her local newspaper, to Congress, and to the president. She even read the letter she wrote to then-President Donald Trump following her mom’s deportation during the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
“The experience was incredible, to be honest,” Juarez says of being part of the convention. “I had no idea how huge and important this event was.” Juarez’s story is just one of many, but it made a huge impact. In 2021, her mother received temporary permission to return to her family on humanitarian parole and a one-year extension this past May.
This past September, Juarez’s first book, Until Someone Listens: A Story About Borders, Family, and One Girl’s Mission, and its Spanish language edition were published. There’s also an audio version Juarez recorded as well. The autobiographical children’s book, illustrated by Teresa Martinez, encourages kids of all ages to speak up for what they believe in.
In the 40-page picture book, Juarez’s letters take her from the local news all the way to the national stage, where she discovers the power in her words and pledges to keep using her voice until her family—and others like hers—are together again.
With this book, Juarez hopes not only to bring attention to her story but also to show kids all over the country that you don’t need to be an adult to make a change. The book continues to gain momentum, including a starred trade review from School Library Journal, stating, “...this impactful picture book provides an inside look at one young girl’s courage to help her mother and inspire other immigrants like her.”
For Juarez, who was born and raised in Davenport, Florida, the experience of speaking at the Democratic National Convention is what created the opportunity for her to write a book. “It has opened many doors for me,” she says. And the inspiration for her first book came easily. “When I saw how the broken immigration laws hurt my family and other families, I decided that I was going to create a book with the hope to spread awareness and to help change those laws,” Juarez says.
Many have come to know her mother’s story over the years. Alejandra grew up in Mexico and illegally crossed the border at the age of 18. She was soon apprehended but later crossed back into the United States. Alejandra married a former Marine and U.S. citizen, but after President Donald Trump’s 2016 election and adoption of a “zero-tolerance” policy on undocumented immigrants, she was placed on a deportation list.
Now that her family is reunited for the time being, Juarez felt called to write about the experience. She started speaking full sentences at a very young age and has always loved reading and writing. Her mom’s situation made her love for writing even stronger.
“I have a diary, and in it, I love to write everyday stuff, but after my mom was deported, I started to write more about how I was feeling and also started writing to legislators,” she explains. “After the video of me was featured on the Democratic National Convention, my wonderful agent, Johanna, asked if I was interested in publishing my book. I hope this book can show readers how the immigration laws hurt families, and also, I hope it inspires them to use their voice regardless of how young they are.”
“I hope this book can show readers how the immigration laws hurt families, and also, I hope it inspires them to use their voice regardless of how young they are.”
Today, Juarez is hard at work penning her second book, which will be targeted toward young adult and adult readers. “It goes even more into details about my experience being the daughter of an undocumented immigrant,” she says.
Although she has a lot to be proud of in life thus far, two moments stand out the most: “When my mom came back and when I held a finished copy of my book for the first time,” Juarez says.
Juarez aims to one day become an immigration lawyer and a Congresswoman to advocate for the unification of separated families. And there’s one important thing she hopes readers of all ages take away from her writing. “Sadly, my story is one of many,” she says, “and by telling my story, I hope readers with their vote and legislators can help me fix these broken immigration laws.”