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Image: John Keatley

She grew up in a village outside of Culiacan, a haven for cocaine traffickers on Mexico’s west coast. As the oldest of nine children, she raised her brothers and sisters because her indifferent mother wouldn’t. Her alcoholic father forced her to drop out of school after sixth grade so she could help around the house. So 20 years ago she left and slipped over the border—illegally—to join a new family in America.

No, I don’t mind holding the flags. I love this country.

Let’s say immigration found me: If I go back to Mexico, I would be really scared. I’ve been here so long, so to go back, I have to learn everything again. And how the country is right now, it’s a mess. I’d be more scared to be in Mexico than being here and being afraid of Immigration. In my country, things are crooked.

I was 17 years old when I came to this country. This lady ask me if I want to go with her to the USA to be her babysitter; I was babysitting for her sister in Mexico. When she asked me, my parents, my family never crossed my mind. It’s sad for me to say, but my family didn’t treat me right. But in another way I’m happy. Because it make me very strong. It make me to open my eyes, to make decisions that for some people are really hard to do.

Everyone comes here in different ways. The way that it was for me, it was easy. We traveled from Culiacan to Tijuana. And in Tijuana there was a “coyote”—that’s the name they call the people that help us to come here. So the coyote told us, “Don’t worry. I know how to cross, and everything is going to be fast and quick, and somebody will be waiting for us on the other side.” It was 20 years ago, so I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I just remember that we crossed in the middle of the night. The walking was maybe like five minutes. And on the other side there was a car. We get into the car, and then we just drive. In my brain, I was thinking, I hope they don’t see us. I hope they don’t ask us for papers. But nobody did.

In Mexico, they’re happy when somebody make it here. They say, “Oh, somebody went to the United States, and he make it, he’s working, he’s sending money to his family and they’re building a house and eating better and have better clothes.” They never say anything about, “Oh, he got a visa.”

I did wrong. I recognize. I came here illegally. I was young and from a village, and I didn’t know the right way. But everybody in this country know that, and they let us work for them, and they pay us and everything. I’ve been in this country for 20 years, and I’ve been good. And then let’s say they kick me out and I go to Mexico. To me, it feels like it’s not fair. Once we want to do things right, they don’t let us.

When people say that we don’t deserve to get medical attention or services in this country, I get upset. We pay taxes. We get ITIN [an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, issued by the IRS regardless of immigration status]. There is money from us contributing to this country.

I wish Latino people would be more about education. Instead, it’s about working and getting money now. I remember this friend in Reno, Nevada, he said, “What are you going to do with your life?” And I said, “I’m going to go to school.” And he said, “Why do you go to school? Make money now and save it and start a business.” Maybe that works for him. But it doesn’t work for me, because I spend the money. I know that if I go to school, that is something that will stay with me forever.

This immigration reform, amnesty, or whatever, there’s one thing I wish they would take in mind: to check backgrounds. If I would be a person living in this country, I would make sure that criminals wouldn’t be here. They don’t deserve it. And because of them, people that wants to do good, we are suffering.

I get along better with Americans than I do with Latinos. When I came here, I noticed that American people treat me much better than in my country. And I think, Why is it that the people from this world treat me better than my own country, my own family, my own parents, my own brothers and sisters?

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