Two Stories of Immigration
June 5, 2017
Listen to the stories here. Or read them below.
Today's homily is made up of two parishioners sharing their stories of immigration to the United States. The stories are presented anonymously to protect their identities.
Eighteen years ago, after months of indecision my husband and I decided to leave our home, family and friends to cross the border into the United States. We loved our country, but we wanted a better life and future for our children. We knew the journey would be dangerous and filled with suffering. We prayed and prayed for God to protect and help us along the way.
On March 25, 1999, my husband and I arrived at the Sonora Airport before crossing the Mexican Border. There I experienced first-hand the shame and humiliation undocumented immigrants endure crossing the border into the USA. We had no place to stay and little money. We went to the bus station where many others waiting to cross were allowed to sleep on the floor.
At dawn the next morning we were taken to Aguas Prietas Sonora to find a coyote (a person who helps people cross the border). We were taken to a horrible place filled with people who were treated like animals. Those without any money were treated worse. They had to sleep 10-12 people in a bed.
The following day we were told that the men and women would be separated into 2 groups would cross separately. My husband knew what often happened to women traveling alone. He had the courage to tell them, “No, we will cross together!” We remained in this place for Holy Week and they did not separate us.
The evening of Easter Sunday nineteen of us (17 men and 2 women) were selected to begin our journey. The coyote who led our group turned out to be a very good and considerate man. We were lucky. I know that he was God's answer to my prayers for help. Even today I still think about and pray for this decent man where ever he is and hope that everything is OK with him. He protected us every step of the way. He gave us instructions of what we needed to do to avoid detection. He made sure the two couples stayed together in the front. The rest of the men followed. Some were carrying large bundles on their backs which my husband told me later were drugs.
We walked through the desert for 9 hours with only the light from the moon to guide us. We did not dare use any other light for fear that someone would see us. It was unbearably cold and each time the Border Patrol came nearby we would throw ourselves to the ground afraid to look up lest our eyes reflect light and draw attention to our location.
When we got to the Border fence we had to get over it quickly and again throw ourselves face down on the ground to avoid the Border fence lights. We got up quickly and kept moving knowing the fences had sensors which would quickly alert the nearest border patrol office to investigate the area.
We arrived in Phoenix at five in the morning. All 19 of us were packed together in the back of a pickup truck like sardines in a can. We were covered with a black tarp and traveled for almost 24 hours in the hot desert sun. We had no food or water.
When we arrived at our final destination we were taken to a small one bedroom house that had already had 50-70 people (and a baby) staying there. We ate, slept and had to remain seated in that small house for more than a week before being allowed to leave.
When we look back on our immigration journey we are grateful that our experience was not as bad as many other border crossing stories we know to be true. We never stopped praying for God's help and protection from the night we left Mexico until we arrived safely in our new country. We knew there would be suffering, but if we were successful our children would have a chance at a better life.
We are still so grateful to this country for all we have received. We are the lucky ones. Many people throughout Mexico are not so lucky. Each day, parents struggle to provide food and a decent life for their loved ones. Please pray for them.
I will start by saying that there is an infinite number of stories of why people cross the border from Mexico to USA. The most known story is how people cross the border for a better future since people south of the US struggle to have enough money to buy necessities like food, clothes and housing. Many others come to the US due to the violence suffered in their places of origin. It is not easy to live day by day, and struggling just to survive, and protect your family. A few others have the luck of coming to this country as visitors and get to enjoy the beautiful landscapes it has.
But my case is that of only a few. I crossed the border with my kids and all I came for was to keep my family together. I could not stay in my country and watch my husband leave me and our kids behind year after year anymore. For years, my husband went to the US to work and it was always heartbreaking to see him go. Months felt like an eternity until I could see him again at the end of year. We had three kids and every time he left it got harder, as not only was he leaving me but our kids as well. Although we didn’t suffer economically my family wasn’t complete or happy. We were always missing him. One day, when I saw him leave to the US again I thought to myself that it had been enough. We could not continue to live our lives like this. So, I held everything we owned, held my kids close, and we headed north. Making that decision wasn't easy, I left my parents, my brothers and sisters. I didn’t know what I was going to encounter along the way.
We then made it to the border and it was incredibly hard as I had never been there. We spent two weeks trying to enter. The heat was intense during the day, and so was the cold at night. As I remember all of this n ow, if I had to do it again, I know I could never expose my kids to this again. I am certain God was in our journey and put people along the way so that we could cross safe and sound. I know that there are people who leave their kids behind and once settled they have their kids join them, but I knew that if I wasn't happy being far away from my husband, I could never leave without my kids by my side. They are my life.
Coming here was not easy and starting a new life with strangers didn’t make it any easier. We spent two months living in other people’s homes. Wherever we could get a place . . . and that wasn’t easy because there are many of us.
One day my husband bought a mobile home and we moved in. We had to start from zero. The water heater didn’t work and we had no stove. So we walked to a used store and bought a microwave. The mobile home park manager knew the house he had sold to my husband had no stove so one day he gave us a small two-burner stove. It was small but I now had something to cook on. Good hearted people showed up to my home and gave us some groceries. Another day someone came and brought us a bed and sheets. I was offered a job and little by little we bought what we needed and started our new life.
I am thankful to my Lord, Jesus Christ, for showing me the way and for granting me to be here today, and to have my kids and husband by my side. But I also want to thank all those people who helped us when we got here. Wherever they may be, may God bless them.