Earlier this year, I helped host an immigration discussion night at my university. We showed a short film I put together of undocumented immigrants and these are a few excerpts from the interviews (for privacy, names have been changed).
Tell the story of how you came to the U.S.
Juan talks with me on the porch while holding his baby son in his arms. His daughters play at his feet while his wife listens from the doorway. All of his children were born in the United States. He is an active member in his evangelical church.
Juan: “Well, to tell the truth, I came by illegally crossing the border. I crossed over nine years ago. I came in December and, thank God-since I arrived, I’ve always had work.”
I am close friends with Sandra and she shared her story with me before. Unlike Juan, her oldest two children are not U.S. citizens. They quietly sit beside me in the living room of their one bedroom apartment as their mother recounts her journey once more with tears in her eyes.
Sandra: “I thank God I did not suffer like many others have suffered. My children…well Josué was two years old and doesn’t remember anything. He came over sleeping and the same with Lily. Lily was a year old. They came at night [with family members] and I came the following day.”
Sandra shared with me when she passed her children off to cross the border ahead of her, he was not sure if she would make it over and even be reunited with them on the other side. She recalls it being a scary risk she had to take.
Priscilla: “At seventeen years old with my mom and my brother, I came with a visa by airplane and since then we haven’t gone back to Mexico.” That was over a decade ago.
Victoria: “Well [one reason] was because we didn’t have money [in Guatemala.]”
What is the most difficult part of living here?
Victoria: “Without a license we are not able to go out and do things. It makes us uncomfortable to go out and drive. We are a little scared.”
Sandra: “We, as undocumented, have to fight for everything because we have to pay for it all: doctors, nurses. We don’t have many things that a citizen would have and that’s what affects us. The hardest thing for us who don’t understand the language of our children is the homework. Sometimes we can’t help them. Another thing is when they are sick-with the doctors in the hospitals or the schools especially, because they have meetings and you can’t go because you don’t understand what they are saying. Things like this are hard because you don’t understand well enough.”
How are you treated here?
Juan: “Sometimes we don’t associate ourselves with each other because of the language but… many have treated us well.”
Priscilla: “Well, here, they are… can I use the word? …racist. While [in Walmart], my husband began speaking Spanish and the man told him no, that he should speak in English or that we should get out of this country.”
What hopes and dreams do you have for your children?
Victoria: “I want them to study and have a good career, so that they would live well, not like we lived. We didn’t have opportunities to study. Where I lived was five hours from a school. So I didn’t study because there wasn’t a teacher nearby. Imagine, five hours there and five hours back? It was far. Here we have opportunities- in my country, we didn’t.”
Priscilla: “I don’t know. Sara wants to be a doctor and Alan wants to be a police officer. I want them to study a lot. Because in Mexico there wouldn’t be opportunities like there are here.”
What advice would you give a friend wanting to come here?
Sandra: “Well it’s a better future for your children but… don’t risk your lives; because your life doesn’t have a price. I’ve seen many stories on the television, and I talk with my mom on the phone and she tells me of girls who have tried to come here through the desert and the only thing they find is death. They are brought back to their towns dead without achieving the ‘American Dream’ as some say.”
What apprehensions do you have about living here?
Juan: “My fear so far, is that if I continue as an undocumented immigrant, that one day the government might send me back. I’ve already started a family here. I have my wife and my kids. That makes me kind of afraid. This is my fear sometimes, that one day they could deport me and my kids would stay here. I have four children. The truth is I love them so much. They are precious. Who can put a price on family? I ask God that He would not allow the laws to become harder – that they would change but in a more humane way.”
Kristen Bruce is an Alabama native, a recent graduate from Lee University and is currently living in the country of Panama. She is participating in short-term missions. You can follow her blog here at http://kristensarahbruce.wordpress.com. She plans on continuing her studies upon returning to the U.S.
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