Diego Estrada says he was just over a year old when his mother carried him across the border from Mexico to the United States.
His aunts, his older brother and his three older sisters also made the journey. His father was waiting for them in California, where he had immigrated several years earlier to find agricultural work.
His father became a resident under President Ronald Reagan's Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, a bill that made any immigrant who'd entered the United States before 1982 eligible for amnesty. His mother followed, in search of a better life than the one afforded by the $15 per week she earned making handcrafted ornaments in Mexico.
"They wanted to provide for us," Estrada told me, "and avoid us falling into that same life."
Estrada is 27 now, and he competes around the world as a professional runner. On Sunday, Oct. 8, he ran in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon – his second time through the 26.2-mile course. Last year he finished eighth overall in Chicago and first among Americans, with a race time of 2:13:56.
He's racing this year, he says, for America's "Dreamers," the term often used for undocumented immigrants who arrived illegally in the United States as children – as he did.
Dreamers were granted the temporary right to live, study and work in America under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created in 2012 under President Barack Obama. After being vetted for criminal history and national security threats, young people who are students or have completed school or military service are able to earn a driver's license and work permit under DACA, and they can avoid being deported for two years.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans last month to scrap DACA, leaving the fate of close to 800,000 immigrants in the air. The government is no longer accepting new DACA applications.
The vast majority of Dreamers are from Mexico – 79 percent, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. They're between 15 and 36 years old, and many of them, like Estrada, don't remember life before the United States.
"I grew up in Salinas, Calif., which is probably where your lettuce comes from," he said. "As a kid, you see your surroundings, and you feel that's your home."
He moved to Flagstaff, Ariz., in 2008 to attend Northern Arizona University and became a U.S. citizen during his fourth year of college – three days before competing in the NCAA cross-country nationals.
When his native Mexico offered him a spot on the 2012 Olympic team, he seized the chance, unsure whether his citizenship would be secured in time to make him eligible for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
He competed in the 10,000 meter for Mexico and finished 21st.
"It was a great honor," he told Esquire in September, "but it still didn't sit well, just because it's almost like – I see the countries as mom and dad. I don't love or dislike any less; I'm very proud of my heritage. But yet, representing Mexico, almost – I've never done it, but I imagine – what it felt like was cheating on your significant other."
He's hoping his time in Chicago puts him a step closer to representing the United States in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
"It's the only thing that gets me out of bed, sometimes, when it comes to training," he said. "That's my motivation."
He wants a chance to represent his adopted country, as well as the children and adults working to adopt it.
"I just want to do my part in showing what people who come to this country to chase down their dreams are able to do," he said.
"Ever since I was a child, I've watched my family come up from nothing. I grew up in an area with a lot of immigrants, and they worked hard and abided by the laws and were great for our city, our state, our country."
The Chicago area is home to more than 30,000 Dreamers, according to Pew Research data. I love that Estrada will wind through their streets, past their homes, their schools, their hangouts.
Before the race he said, "I'm going out there with that motivation in the back of my head." "I want to try and do a good job for all the Dreamers."
(Contact Heidi Stevens at email@example.com, or on Twitter: @heidistevens13.)