Guest Blog by Kellye Fabian People have asked me why I am so taken with the undocumented immigrant. There are law-abiding people who need your help, they say. Good point. Why do the stories of the undocumented immigrants touch the deepest parts of my soul? Why do I remember their stories more vividly than all the others I have heard in my work at the Willow Creek Legal Aid Ministry? Why is it that I can still see the eyes of the undocumented immigrants when I close mine? Why do their stories, so different from mine, seem like part of my own story? After all, I grew up downtown Chicago in an upper-middle class white family. I have never gone without anything I need. I attended the best schools and enjoy any number of privileges. The undocumented immigrants I have met have experienced a very different kind of life, one with very little schooling, if any, and even less privilege. For example:
- Mario grew up poor, in a tiny village in Mexico. At age 16, his alcoholic father disowned him because he was not “manly” enough. His father beat him and told him to leave and never come back. He even told the corrupt local police to arrest Mario if he was ever found near the house again. So, one night in the darkness, Mario crossed the border illegally into the United States, a place he had heard about since he was a kid. Now, four years later, he wants to become “legal” so he can go to college.
- Louisa is a single mom who, along with her two kids, lives with friends. She left Mexico because she had no way to support herself and the kids after her husband left them. They were smuggled into the United States, hidden in a dark, suffocating truck bed. She came to the Legal Aid Ministry asking what to do about the traffic ticket she received. She had failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign and was also cited for having had her youngest strapped into a too-small car seat, a car seat she was able to afford only because a neighbor had put it out on the curb as garbage.
- Leo dreamed of coming to the United States for better work. So he did, but without working through the normal, legal process. The prospects here were just too tempting. Now, twenty years later, he has a wife and two kids, each of whom is a citizen. But he lost his job and can no longer provide for his family. He wants to know what his options are for citizenship or residency.