- Politics and Social Issues
I was an Illegal Immigrant
Halloween in Guatemala
Illegal immigration is a thorny issue simply because there are people in the world who want to kill Americans. We need to close our borders, but we also need to have compassion on the people who are already here. I say this, because I understand what it is like to be a foreigner and not know the language. I was an illegal alien in Guatemala for one year. I know what it is like to have to leave your family behind in a third world country because there is NO MONEY to be MADE.
My family calls me the adventurous one because I am the only one who left Texas. I have always loved learning about people and cultures. I always knew that at some point in my life I would live in a foreign country and experience that culture for myself. When I met my ex-wife, I got that chance.
She came here as a child and when we wanted to get married we found out that she would be deported because she originally came here on a student visa. Even though we were about to get married, the United States was going to deport her back to Guatemala for 10 years. She spoke perfect English, worked for almost 12 years at the same job, and was a culturally an American.
At the time, I worked for a major newspaper and I felt stuck in an editing job and really wanted to get out. I thought it was a great idea to go to Central America because we would be able to fix her papers, I could learn Spanish, I would get the experience of living in a different culture, and I could get my teaching credential when I returned.
We arrived in Guatemala City on her birthday and in the town we would live in on mine, the very next day. Antigua, Guatemala is gorgeous little town that sits up in the mountains above Guatemala City. There were many people who spoke English, but to do business, you needed to speak Spanish. I had taken one Spanish class in high school. I had a basis to learn so I set out to do just that.
I taught English, did some freelance writing and photography, and even helped a guy from "Navy Intelligence" start a newspaper. However, by the end of April we were pregnant and I need to work right away. The prospects were grim and after seven and a half months of pregnancy the midwives we were working with told us my wife's blood pressure was rising and she needed to see a doctor. My daughter was born on December 30, 1999.
We lasted a year, but soon the government in Guatemala changed and that changed the economy. There was no money for anything. My daughter was almost two years old when I made the decision to catch a bus from Guatemala City to Moreno Valley, CA. I did have one problem and that was my visa had expired and I was going to have to pay a hefty fine for being Guatemala illegally. So, I told the embassy that my passport was destroyed by a dog and got another passport for $75.
I left on a September morning. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I remember just trying to survive the journey through Mexico because the Federales stopped the bus going north about ever 20 minutes. I arrived in Moreno Valley on September 10, 2001. I went to the beach that day and watched the planes fly into the World Trade Centers the next morning.
It took me two months and five letters to get my wife her visa and return to Guatemala the same way I came, three days on a bus. One of those letters made to Senator Barbara Boxer's office and she solved the problem of the my wife's visa. I was back in Guatemala before Christmas. My wife and daughter flew out of Guatemala a month after Christmas. I stayed another month.
So, that is the story of how I became an illegal immigrant. However, because of my education I was able to change things. Most of the people who come here from Mexico don't have any such thing. Take for instance, the little girl who rode up here with me on the bus. Her clothes were tattered, she was frightened, and she parked herself on the inside seat next to the only American on the bus, me. I also happened to be one of the biggest people on the bus. She was going into a world to cross a border that was dangerous and filled with pitfalls. She had no agenda, except she wanted to get to family in Jurupa.
Have some compassion America. Let's close the borders and accept the immigrants who are here into our melting pot. By the way, on the trip back to Guatemala, the Federales didn't stop the bus.